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.
How to assess risks in a workplace
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 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published Five Steps to Risk Assessment to help you:
Risk assessment needn't be complicated
Don’t over complicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. You probably already know whether, for example, you have employees who move heavy loads and so could harm their backs, or where people are most likely to slip or trip. If so, check that you have taken reasonable precautions to avoid injury.
If you run a small organisation and you are confident you understand what’s involved, you can do the assessment yourself. You don’t have to be a health and safety expert.
HSE have a number of example risk assessments and risk assessment and policy templates to show you what a risk assessment might look like. Choose the example closest to your own business and use it as a guide for completing the template, adapting it to meet the needs of your own business.
If you work in a larger organisation, you could ask a health and safety adviser to help you. If you are not confident, get help from someone who is competent. In all cases, you should make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. They will have useful information about how the work is done that will make your assessment of the risk more thorough and effective. But remember, you are responsible for seeing that the assessment is carried out properly.
When thinking about your risk assessment, remember:
a hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer, etc; and
- the risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.