Workplace Risk Assessments - What do you need to know?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), all employers should carry out workplace risk assessments. They allow you to identify potential hazards and implement procedures that minimise these. In doing so, employers protect their employees, guests and visitors while maintaining exceptional Health & Safety in the process. No matter the size of your business, the amount of employees you hire or whether you work with the general public, risk assessments are vital. Our guide explains everything you need to know about them and where you can find the best templates on the Internet.
What is classed as a hazard?
The main reason for undertaking a risk assessment is to identify hazards. These are anything that has the potential to injury or harm an employee, visitors or guests to your building. Some of these are easy to spot. For example, hot stoves in the kitchen can cause burns. But others are more obscure. Below are the four main categories of hazards you need to be aware of.
These hazards are those that can cause physical damage to employees, visitors or guests. They include things like slipping on wet floor, breathing in high levels of dust or hunching over computer desks for extended periods of time. These are the hazards that are the easiest to identify. Most of the time you can see them clearly during the day. Therefore, they should be the first ones you address with either safety signs or through other preventative measures.
The focus on mental health in the workplace is something we’re becoming increasingly aware of. Modern work puts a great number of strains on our mental state and that of our employees. Therefore, it is vital that you take the measures to minimise this. Some of the hazards presented here are excessive workloads, long hours and working with high-need clients.
In certain workplace environments, the use of chemicals presents its own hazards. These can be anything from everyday cleaning fluids through to asbestos. The degree of severity presents by chemicals in your business can vary drastically. However, it should always be taken into consideration - especially as different people can have different reactions.
Although most common in healthcare environments, biological hazards can still arise in various environments. These include the spread of infections such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.
How does a risk assessment help reduce hazards?
Forming an integral role in your health and safety plan, risk assessments are a comprehensive way of highlighting individual hazards. They offer a number of benefits including:
- Allowing you to identify hazards and risks before they cause harm
- Helping you to analyse the degree of risk presented with each hazard. This will be a vital stage in establishing where safety measures need to be implemented.
- Supporting you in identifying the most appropriate ways to eliminate or control the hazard.
A risk assessment essentially takes a detailed look at your workplace, using the framework of the four hazard types mentioned above. It helps to identify exactly who is at risk and how this can be prevented effectively. Additionally, risk assessments can also analyse your existing health and safety set up to establish if it is working effectively. When meeting legal requirements, they are vital and ensure you stay compliant at all times.
When should I perform a risk assessment?
The reasons for performing a risk assessment can vary. Primarily there are 3 times when it is vital that you look at the hazards around the workplace. These are:
- When a new process or activity is introduced. This could be a new avenue of business you want to go down or a new job placement. A risk assessment should take place before it has been implemented.
- Before you implement any changes to existing processes or activities. This could include new machinery brought in to complete a job or when new legislation is passed. A risk assessment will identify any new and existing hazards.
- When a new hazard is identified. Even businesses that have a firm understanding of their work environment can still encounter new hazards. Risk assessments will allow you to establish the degree of risk and how it should be handled.
What does a risk assessment cover?
There are many risk assessment templates available online. We will mention a few at the end of this guide. However, there are a few general rules you should follow when undertaking one.
- Ensure that the person performing the risk assessment is competent or works in a team that has a good working knowledge of the environment.
- Identify hazards by walking through your work environment. Time should be taken to decide whether seemingly innocent machines or procedures could, in fact, do harm.
- Determine the likelihood that each hazard could do harm and how severe this could be. Here, you will need to take into account the hazard during normal working activity and in the event of an emergency. For example, would the risk increase in the event of a power cut?
- Ensure you are up-to-date with the existing Health and Safety legislations alongside any that are specific to your industry. This will help you establish the importance of each hazard.
- Identify the actions that are required to eliminate or control the hazard/risk. What do you need to do process-wise to ensure that chance of injury is reduced?
- Reassess these actions to ensure that they will minimise or eliminate the hazard at hand. If not, go back and reassess what can be done.
- Continuously monitor the measures taken. This is one of the most important stages as it determines whether a new risk assessment is needed. The person conducting the analysis should also keep on top of reviews to ensure safety is always prioritised.
- All documentation, notes and records should be kept for future reference.
Where can I find a risk assessment template?
Risk assessment structures can vary depending on your industry, working environment and requirements. However, there are many templates available to download online. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a number of templates available on its website, specifically for small business owners. These spread from environments such as Hairdressing Salons through to Office-Based Businesses and Plastering Companies, to name a few.
The HMRC have a Generic Risk Assessment Form that can be used in a variety of environments. The Word document can be downloaded here. And, you can find a large quantity of risk assessment for download at SafetyRisk.Net.