The process of risk assessment requires you to think about who could be harmed in your workplace, how they could be harmed, and what reasonable steps you can take to prevent that harm.
Whether to comply with the law, or to help protect your company against civil claim, the risk assessment process is a fundamental element of your health and safety management system.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 every employer must assess the risk to employees whilst at work and those affected by his undertaking e.g. customers, contractors and visitors.
- A hazard is anything that may cause harm e.g. chemicals, electricity, falling from ladders, being hit by a reversing vehicle etc.
- The riskis the likelihood (high or low) that somebody could be harmed by the hazard and the severity of outcome.
The HSE’s five steps to risk assessment:
- Identify the hazards
Walk around your workplace, consult your staff and look at accident records. Consider both routine and non-routine practices, including cleaning and maintenance.
- Decide who might be harmed and how
Consider any person who enters your workplace (including any external areas like parking). Those who may be harmed typically include staff, customers, visitors, contractors (e.g. maintenance and cleaning staff). Consider that pregnant or nursing mothers, young workers, and migrant workers have particular requirements.
- Evaluate the risk and decide on precautions
Focus first on higher risk areas – those hazards that can result in the most severe injuries (e.g. falling from height when cleaning gutters/changing lightbulbs) and those more likely to cause injury (e.g. slips and trips).
Can the hazard be eliminated? If not, how can the risk be reduced?
Precautions (control measures) need to be implemented taking into account ‘reasonable’ expenditure, time, trouble, and what is considered normal industry practice. Employee involvement or external health and safety advice may help to determine the most appropriate and practical control measures.
The risk assessment must be recorded unless you have fewer than five employees. Health and safety inspectors and insurers will request sight of your risk assessments so these need to be readily available.
Risk assessments should be reviewed typically annually or in event of changes in business operations, layout or equipment etc.