As an employer, it is your responsibility to keep your workforce safe. Of course, accidents happen from time-to-time, but if they occur because of negligence or carelessness on your behalf, you could find yourself in big trouble. This is why you need to commit to providing a safe and healthy working environment. One of the ways to do this is by carrying out regular risk assessments.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is a careful and thorough evaluation of potential risks in the workplace. It enables you to determine whether you have taken enough precautions to ensure your workforce is safe, or whether you need to put more controls in place to prevent harm.
Why do you need to carry out a risk assessment?
Risk assessments are important because they protect your employees and your business, as well as ensuring you comply with the law. If you neglect your responsibility to do a risk assessment, and an accident occurs on-site as a consequence, you could find yourself facing a legal battle. Companies such as Siler Ingber Injury Lawyers help workers to claim compensation when they have been hurt because of their employer’s negligence. If the accident happened because of something that would have been flagged up if the risk assessment was carried out properly, you will be at fault for the person’s suffering, which will lead to hefty expenses and reputational damage. After all, why should the worker need to pay for medical expenses when they accident could have been avoided?
How to carry out a workplace risk assessment
To carry out an effective workplace risk assessment, there is a five-step process to follow.
Step 1: Identify any potential hazards
The first thing you need to do is determine whether there are any potential hazards. Hazards can be classified in a number of different ways. One option is to split them into mental, physical, biological, and chemical hazards.
- Mental: Common examples include working with high-need clients, long hours, excess workload, and bullying.
- Physical: Physical hazards in the workplace include the likes of machinery, dust, noise, slips and trips, awkward postures, and lifting.
- Biological: This could be hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases faced by workers in certain environments like hospitals, healthcare businesses and clinics.
- Chemical: Common chemical hazards include aerosols, cleaning fluids, and asbestos.
Step 2: Work out who could be harmed and how
Now that you have identified the risks, you need to determine who is at risk. For instance, is it your full-time workers, part-time workers, clients, visitors, contract staff, or members or the public? You need to review all work processes and routines, in all areas and locations of your business. After all, the risks in one area of your workplace could be entirely different to another section.
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and take the necessary action
Step three involves assessing the risks carefully to determine how likely it is that each hazard could cause harm. You can rank hazards as high, moderate, or low risk. This will help you to determine what precautions you need to take to lower the level of risk. Of course, even if you have done everything possible to reduce the danger of a certain part of your business, some risk could remain. You need to make a note of this, and you need to make all workers aware as well.
Step 4: Record all of your findings
You need to keep a record of all of your findings. This is something that is required by law. Make sure the record incorporates details of any hazards, as well as the action taken to lower or eradicate the risk. By keeping a record, you can prove that the risk assessment has been carried out. Not only this, but you can use it as the basis for a later review of working practices. Make sure your findings are legible and presented properly. You should be able to read it as a working document; it should not be locked away for no one to see.
Step 5: Review the risk assessment
You cannot afford to remain stagnant in the workplace. Things change all of the time, and so your risk assessment will become out-of-date if you leave it in place for years on end. Instead, you need to review your risk assessment to make sure that the agreed safe working practices are continually applied, i.e. that line managers and supervisors respect the safety instructions passed down by the management. The risk assessment also needs to be reviewed to account for any new working practices, more demanding work targets, or new machinery.
Risk assessment mistakes you need to avoid
Last but not least, having a risk assessment is one thing, but using it effectively is another. Make sure you avoid the common risk assessment mistakes mentioned below to guarantee a safe and healthy workplace:
- Not acting on your own recommendations – Simply suggesting changes is not good enough. You need to implement them.
- Using irrelevant off-the-shelf assessments – You can off-the-shelf assessments available online. If you use them, it is vital to make sure that they are suitable for your needs. If they include hazards that are not relevant to you, you need to delete them; otherwise, you will harm your credibility. Of course, you need to add any hazards that aren’t included too.
- Not telling your workforce – It is wise to involve your workers in the assessment process. However, even if you don’t, you need to inform them of the outcomes. This is a legal requirement.
- Only considering ‘normal’ operation – Most assessments go wrong because they assume that everything is operating as it should be. But how often does life run smoothly? There are often bumps in the road, such as chemical spillages or machinery becoming jammed. You need to consider these eventualities.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding what a risk assessment is, what needs to be included, why risk assessments are important, and what you should not be doing! Use this information to carry out risk assessments at your business, and you will protect your workers, as well as your company.