What is a risk assessment?
Help! I need to do a risk assessment!
A risk assessment is a process in which you thoroughly examine any factors in the workplace that could cause harm to your employees. Knowing how to complete a risk assessment is essential to managing health and safety in the workplace. If you are an employer you are required by law to complete a risk assessment of your premises and this must be written down if you have more than five employees.
There are five key stages to a risk assessment, all of which help you identify, manage and control risks. If you are a responsible employer you will probably follow a number of these steps already.
1. Identifying hazards
At this stage of the risk assessment it is useful to have a walk around your premises and look for any hazards that could potentially harm an employee. Check that manufacturers’ instructions for equipment or chemicals are being followed and have a look at your accident book to see if any trends can be seen.
2. Decide who might be harmed
Think about the people who might be at risk in the workplace. Speak to employees about any hazards they are aware of. A risk assessment should consider visitors or contractors who come into the workplace. The requirements of disabled workers should also be taken into account.
3. Evaluate risk
Evaluation of risk means assessing how likely an identified risk is to lead to harm. It is impossible to eradicate all risks from a workplace, but as an employer you should be looking to minimise the impact of any perceived risk. Practical steps in minimising risk might include use of warning signs, preventing access to hazards or providing employees with protective equipment. Consulting staff on their own health and safety concerns can also be a useful part of a risk assessment.
Even if you have under five employees, it is useful to write down your findings. The written risk assessment should confirm that a thorough check of the workplace has been done, that employees have been consulted and that you have dealt appropriately with any significant risks. You can find risk assessment templates on the website of the Health and Safety Executive (http://www.hse.gov.uk/index.htm).
A risk assessment should be reviewed at regular intervals or following any significant changes to the workplace. It’s a good idea to review your risk assessment if employees raise concerns, or following an accident or near miss.