A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.
Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and affect your business too if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace so that you put in place a plan to control the risks.
Why Risk Assessments are Important for Businesses to Carry Out
A risk assessment is an important aspect in regards to protecting employees and the actual business. Additionally, a business needs to ensure that they are complying with the laws and regulations, as a risk assessment helps businesses to focus upon the risks that are of utmost importance within the workplace.
In the majority of instances, businesses can use straight-forward measures that can immediately control any known potential risks; an example being that if a spillage occurs whether on a work surface or floor, that they are immediately cleaned up to avoid any accidents occurring as a result of un-due care. Failure to clean up the spillage and/or make others aware of the spillage using a sign that indicates that there is a slippery surface, will make a business liable if a person was to fall on the surface area in question.
It is impossible to cover all bases when it comes to trying to protect employees from all possible risks within a workplace and the law reflects this. Businesses however, are expected and required to protect employees as much as possible and is referred to as ‘reasonably practicable’.
Identifying Potential Risks
There are several ways in which potential hazards and risks can be avoided and more often than not, work well when the risks and circumstances are much more complicated than the ‘normal’ workplace environment. In this situation, businesses must be able to adapt to the different type of surroundings and is not just a case of following ‘certain steps’.
However, complex situations are few and far between and as a ‘usual’ rule of thumb, these following five risk assessment steps are the best way to identify potential risks within the workplace:
Identify the potential hazards to employees through using common sense and walking around the workplace. Also, seek input from employees and/or their representatives to see what they think about the workplace environment and if they have any opinion in relation to their own health and safety.
Businesses are also able to check manufacturer’s instructions, especially if handling products or liquids; they should illustrate the dangers that are associated with a product or liquid; if in doubt, check with the HSE or ask an expert in the field.
There is a possibility that businesses can seek advice from a trade association, if they are of course a member. However, more often than not, identifying the most obvious hazards is to look back at the illness and accident records and identify any patterns and if an accident did occur, has the appropriate measures been taken in order to minimise the risk of reoccurrence.
Businesses can also visit the HSE website in order to search for additional and important advice on how to identify potential workplace hazards. Hiring a health and safety competent person would be another way for businesses to ensure that they are adhering to health and safety laws and regulations.
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James, the author of this article has worked in the health and safety industry for many years and has gained vast experience and knowledge of the best practices for businesses to adhere to.