Risk management involves you, the employer, looking at the risks that arise in the workplace and then putting sensible health and safety measures in place to control them. By doing this you can protect you’re most valuable asset, your employees, as well as members of the public from harm. During 2010/11, 165 people were killed and over 271,000 were injured at work because of a failure to manage risk.
As an employer, the law requires you to assess and manage health and safety risks – for most businesses this is not difficult to do and the HSE has published Five Steps to Risk Assessment to help you. This is not the only way to do a risk assessment, there are other methods that work well, particularly for more complex risks and circumstances. However we believe this method is the most straightforward for most organisations.
What is risk assessment?
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 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 you must put plans in place to control risks.
5 steps to Risk Assessment
Step 1: Identify the hazards
First you need to work out how people could be harmed. When you work in a place everyday it is easy to overlook some hazards, so here are some tips to help you identify the ones that matter:
• Walk around your workplace and look at what could reasonably be expected to cause harm.
• Ask your employees or their representatives what they think. They may have noticed things that are not immediately obvious to you.
• Visit the HSE website. HSE publishes practical guidance on where hazards occur and how to control them.
• Alternatively, call Romero Risk Management (Tel: 0113 281 8702), who will be happy to help
• If you are a member of a trade association, contact them. Many produce very helpful guidance.
• Check manufacturers’ instructions or data sheets for chemicals and equipment as they can be very helpful in spelling out the hazards and putting them in their true perspective.
• Have a look back at your accident and ill-health records – these often help to identify the less obvious hazards.
• Remember to think about long-term hazards to health (eg high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
For each hazard you need to be clear about who might be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of managing the risk. That doesn’t mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of people (eg ‘people working in the storeroom’ or ‘passers-by’).
• Some workers have particular requirements, eg new and young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and ppeople with disabilities may be at particular risk. Extra thought will be needed for some hazards;
• cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, who may not be in the workplace all the time;
• members of the public, if they could be hurt by your activities;
• if you share your workplace, you will need to think about how your work affects others present, as well as how their work affects your staff – talk to them; and
• Ask your staff if they can think of anyone you may have missed.
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Having spotted the hazards, you then have to decide what to do about them. The law requires you to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. You can work this out for yourself, but the easiest way is to compare what you are doing with good practice.
So first, look at what you’re already doing; think about what controls you have in place and how the work is organised. Then compare this with the good practice and see if there’s more you should be doing to bring yourself up to standard.
Step 4: Record your findings and implement them
Putting the results of your risk assessment into practice will make a difference when looking after people and your business.
Writing down the results of your risk assessment, and sharing them with your staff, encourages you to do this. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down, though it is useful so that you can review it at a later date if, for example, if something changes.
When writing down your results, keep it simple, for example ‘Tripping over rubbish: bins provided, staff instructed, weekly housekeeping checks’, or ‘Fume from welding: local exhaust ventilation used and regularly checked’.
Step 5: Review your risk assessment and update if necessary
Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, you will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense therefore, to review what you are doing on an ongoing basis. Every year or so formally review where you are to make sure you are still improving, or at least not sliding back.
Look at your risk assessment again. Have there been any changes? Are there improvements you still need to make? Have your workers spotted a problem? Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses? Make sure your risk assessment stays up to date.
When you are running a business it’s all too easy to forget about reviewing your risk assessment – until something has gone wrong and it’s too late. Why not set a review date for this risk assessment now? Write it down and note it in your diary as an annual event.