Risk Assessment In The Workplace
Evaluate the risks and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more should be done.
Consider how likely it is that each hazard could cause harm. This will determine whether or not you need to do more to reduce the risk. Even after all precautions have been taken, some risk usually remains. What you have to decide for each significant hazard is whether this remaining risk is high, medium or low.
Firstly, ask yourself whether you have done all the things that the law says you have got to do. As an example, there are legal requirements on prevention of access to dangerous parts of machinery. Then ask yourself whether generally accepted industry standards are in place. But do not stop there, think for yourself, because the law also says that you must do what is reasonably practicable to keep your workplace safe. Your real aim is to Make All Risks Small by adding to your precautions as necessary.
If you find that something needs to be done, draw up an action list, and give priority to any remaining risks which are high, and those which could affect most people.
In taking action ask yourself:
1. Can you get rid of the hazard altogether?
2. If not, how can you control the risks, so that harm is unlikely?
In controlling risks apply the principles below, if possible in the following order:
1. Try a less risky option.
2. Prevent access to the hazard (eg by installing guards)
3. Organise work to reduce exposure to the hazard.
4. Issue personal protective equipment.
5. Provide welfare facilities (eg washing facilities for removal of contamination) and first aid.
Improving health and safety need not cost a lot. For instance, placing a mirror on a dangerous blind corner to help prevent vehicle accidents or putting some non-slip material on slippery steps, are relatively inexpensive precautions considering the risks.
And failure to take simple precautions can cost you a lot more if an accident does happen.
But what if the work you do tends to vary a lot, or if you and your employees move from one site to another?
Identify the hazards you can reasonably expect and assess the risks from them. Then, if you spot any additional hazards when you arrive at the site. Get information from others on site, and take what action seems necessary.
But what if you share a workplace?
Tell the other employers and self-employed people working there about any risks your work could cause them, and also the precautions you are taking. Also, think about the risks to your own workforce from those who share your workplace.
But what if you have already assessed some of the risks?
If. for example you use hazardous chemicals and you have already assessed the risks to health and the precautions you need to take under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), you can consider them checked and move on.
Record your findings.
If you have less than 5 employees then you do not need to write anything down. Although you will find it useful to keep a written record of what you have done.
If you have five or more employees, then you must put in writing the significant findings of your risk assessment. This means writing down the significant hazards and your conclusions.
Examples might be something like:
Electrical installations: insulation and earthing checked and found OK.
Fumes from welding: local exhaust ventilation provided and regularly checked.
You must also tell your employees about your findings.
Suitable and sufficient, not perfect.
Risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient. You need to be able to show that:
a proper check was made,
you asked who might be affected (at risk),
you dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved,
the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low.
Keep your written record for reference in the future. It will help you if a Health and Safety Inspector decides to pay you a visit and asks what precautions you have already taken. Or if you become involved in any legal action for civil liability.
It can also act as a reminder for you to keep an eye on any particular hazards and precautions.
You should also make sure that any new employees read the documentation so that they are aware of what is being done.
To make things easier, you could refer to other documents, such as manuals, the arrangements in your health and safety policy statement, company rules and regulations, working instructions, health and safety procedures, and your arrangements for general fire safety.
You may already list these procedures elsewhere. You do not need to repeat all of them, but it is up to you how you wish to present the documents. You could keep them seperately or combine them all into one document.
Step 5. Review your assessment and revise it if necessary.
Sooner or later you are going to bring in new machinery, substances or procedures which may lead to new hazards. If there is any significant change, add this new hazard to your assessment. You do not need to amend your assessment for every trivial change, or for each new job.
But if any change, or new job, brings in significant new hazards, then you should consider them in their own right and do whatever is necessary to keep the risks down.
And finally, it is a good working practice to review your assessment from time to time, to ensure that the precautions are still working effectively.
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