As an employer and business owner, it’s your job to assess activities in the workplace that have the potential to cause harm, and where appropriate, carry out a risk assessment.
A risk assessment can be described as a careful examination of what, in your workplace, could cause harm to your employees or others, the likelihood of that harm occurring and what steps you need to take to reduce the risks of injury or ill health to an acceptable level.
If a work activity does not pose any health and safety risks then there is no need to carry out a risk assessment, although an assessment of sorts will be carried out in order to establish that the task has no hazards and risk attached to it.
How can I identify potential hazards that may require a risk assessment?
Walk around the workplace and look at what could cause harm to both employees and others. Also, consider whether there would be any additional risks to young people and pregnant or nursing mothers.
Concentrate on significant hazards which have the potential for quite serious injury or ill health or which could affect many people.
Speak to employees and ask them what they would identify as hazards associated with their jobs – run a hazard identification campaign.
Hazards could be associated with:
- Equipment – how it is used, guards, controls, noise
- Work processes – how things are done, systems to be followed
- Environmental conditions – floors, heating, ventilation etc
- Materials in use – chemicals, gases, substances etc
Is there a standard format for a risk assessment?
As every risk assessment needs to be “site specific” there is no official format. The essential point is that it must be both readable and informative to an employee as he or she must understand what hazards they may be exposed to when carrying out the task.
Generally, any format that includes the following will be suitable:
- Description of the job task
- Location of activity
- Who will carry it out
- Who else might be affected by the task
- What are the hazards identified
- What could go wrong
- What might the injuries be and how severe might they be
- How likely are the risks
- What can be done to reduce or eliminate the hazards
- What information do employees or others need to work safely
- When might the risk assessment be reviewed
The HSE publish guidance on how to complete risk assessments and they include a Risk Assessment template.
- A risk assessment is really a common sense approach to identifying hazards and deciding what harm could happen.
- Significant risks must be recorded in writing where there are more than five employees.
- Cover any site-specific issues.
- Review risk assessments regularly.
- Risk assessments are often the most critical pieces of paper in any accident investigation or court case.
- Take extra special care with pregnant employees.
- Remember: Hazard is the potential to cause harm. Risk is the likelihood that the harm will be realised.
Pat Perry is executive chairman at health and safety consultants Perry Scott Nash