We must control the risks in our workplace. To do this we need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This is known as risk assessment and it is something we required by law to carry out.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. We are already taking steps to protect our employees, but risk assessment will help you decide whether you have covered all you need to.
Think about how accidents and ill health could happen and concentrate on real risks – those that are most likely and which will cause the most harm.
For some risks, other regulations require particular control measures. Your assessment can help you identify where you need to look at certain risks and these particular control measures in more detail. These control measures do not have to be assessed separately but can be considered as part of, or an extension of, your overall risk assessment
One of the most important aspects of risk assessment is accurately identifying the potential hazards at workplace. A good starting point is to walk around our workplace and think about any hazards. In other words, what is it about the activities, processes or substances used that could injure your employees or harm their health?
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:
There are some hazards with a recognized risk of harm, for example working at height, working with chemicals and machinery etc. Depending on the type of work you do, there may be other hazards that are relevant to construction.
Think how employees (or others who may be present such as sub-contractors or visitors) might be harmed. Ask employees what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks.
For each hazard you need to be clear about who might be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of controlling the risk. That doesn't mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of people.
Having identified the hazards, you then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur; ie the level of risk and what to do about it. Risk is a part of everyday life and you are not expected to eliminate all risks. What you must do is make sure you know about the main risks and the things you need to do to manage them responsibly.
Generally, you need to do everything 'reasonably practicable'. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. Your risk assessment should only include what you could reasonably be expected to know -you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.
Look at what you're already doing, and the control measures you already have in place. Ask yourself:
Some practical steps you could take include:
Improving health and safety need not cost a lot. For instance, placing a mirror on a dangerous, blind corner to help prevent vehicle accidents is a low-cost precaution considering the risks. Failure to take simple precautions can cost you a lot more if an accident does happen.
Involve workers, so that you can be sure that what you propose to do will work in practice and won't introduce any new hazards.
If you control a number of similar workplaces containing similar activities, you can produce a 'model' risk assessment reflecting the common hazards and risks associated with these activities.
Make a record of your significant findings - the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what you have in place to control the risks. Any record produced should be simple and focused on controls.
Any paperwork you produce should help you to communicate and manage the risks in your business. For most people this does not need to be a big exercise - just note the main points down about the significant risks and what you concluded.
An easy way to record your findings is to use our risk assessment, When writing down your results keep it simple, for example 'Fume from welding: local exhaust ventilation used and regularly checked'.
A risk assessment must be 'suitable and sufficient', ie it should show that:
Where the nature of your work changes fairly frequently or the workplace changes and develops (eg a construction site), or where your workers move from site to site, your risk assessment may have to concentrate more on a broad range of risks that can be anticipated.
If your risk assessment identifies a number of hazards, you need to put them in order of importance and address the most serious risks first.
Identify long-term solutions for the risks with the biggest consequences, as well as those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health. You should also establish whether there are improvements that can be implemented quickly, even temporarily, until more reliable controls can be put in place.
Remember, the greater the risk the more robust and reliable the control measures will need to be
Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, you will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. So it makes sense to review what you are doing on an ongoing basis, look at your risk assessment again and ask yourself:
Make sure your risk assessment stays up to date.