The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (2000 in Northern Ireland) states that every UK employer must complete a ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessment.
The purpose of a risk assessment is to highlight the risks that could impact the safety and health of workers, as well as anyone else who might be affected by the business, such as customers. Carefully considering what in the workplace could cause harm helps us to implement sensible measures to control risks.
In this blog, we highlight five questions that should be asked to help protect a workforce and third parties. This is simply an introduction to a health and safety risk assessment. For help carrying out a thorough assessment of your workplace, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
1) What potential hazards are in your workplace?
Working in the same place every day can make it difficult to notice potential hazards. However, this is key to a risk assessment. To start, think about the activities, processes or substances used that could cause harm. A risk assessment should also include risks that would be foreseeable as part of the work activity, process or workplace. For help with spotting less obvious hazards, it’s worth looking back at accident and ill-health records, or reading through manufacturers’ instruction sheets.
2) Who could be harmed and how?
Once the hazards have been identified, think about who may be harmed and how. Consider the different groups of people in the workplace, people who aren’t in the workplace all the time and workers who have particular needs, such as young workers, people with disabilities, expectant mothers and temporary workers. Asking employees what they think the hazards are will produce different perspectives and might raise risks that are not as obvious at first.
3) How likely is it that harm will occur?
Next, you need to decide how likely it is that harm will occur, assign a level of risk to each hazard and think about what can be done about them. You are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks, but you should do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people. For example, trying a less risky option, reducing exposure to hazards, consulting with workers about hazards and providing personal protective equipment.
4) How should you record your findings?
Make a record of the hazards, who could be harmed, how people might be harmed and the measures that are in place to control the risks. A health and safety risk assessment should be clear to manage and communicate risks within a business.
Employers with more than five employees are required by law to keep a written record of their health and safety risk assessments, but it’s also best practice for employers with less than five employees.
5) How often should you review your risks?
It’s important to review what is being done on an ongoing basis (formally once a year) or as things change. For example, introducing new procedures or equipment will raise fresh hazards or change the risk. When reviewing your risk assessment, ask yourself:
- Have there been any significant changes?
- What improvements do you still need to make?
- Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses?
- Have your employees spotted any new problems?
Need help with your health and safety risk assessment?
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