What is a 'risk assessment'?
A risk assessment is a careful examination of what could cause harm to people in the workplace.
Risk assessments allow you to evaluate whether you have taken adequate precautions or need to do more to prevent injury.
The aim is to make sure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill as a result of the work environment.
Accidents and ill-health can ruin lives and directly affect your business by impacting on your productivity.
Accident or ill-health caused by the work environment may cause insurance costs to increase and may also lead to legal action by an injured party.
The important things you need to decide are:
- whether a hazard is significant; and
- whether you have taken appropriate precautions to minimise the risk
How to assess risk in your workplace?
- Look for the hazards. Walk around your workplace and consider what might cause harm.
- Ask your employees what they think. They may have noticed areas of risk which are not obvious.
- Use Safety Data Sheets (SDS) to help you spot hazards and put risks in their true perspective.
- Identify individuals who might have an increased risk of being harmed; young workers, trainees, new employees, expectant mothers, contractors, maintenance workers, cleaners, visitors, members of the public, etc. Evaluate the risks and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done to protect these individuals.
- Record your findings; write down significant hazards and conclusions, e.g. 'electrical installations - insulation and earthing checked and found sound'.
- Review your assessment and revise it when necessary. Sooner or later you will bring in new machines, materials and procedures that could lead to new hazards. If there is any significant change, add it to your original risk assessment.
After assessment, risks may be controlled by:
- Elimination. The job is redesigned and the hazard is removed. Please note that the alternative method should not lead to a less acceptable product or less effective process. If hazard elimination is not successful or practical, then follow the next recommended control measure (2).
- Substitution. Replace the material or process with a less hazardous one. If no suitable or practical replacement is available, then follow the next recommended control measure (3).
- Isolation. Separate the hazard from the operators by methods such as enclosing or guarding dangerous items of machinery. If isolation measures fail to control the risk, then follow the next recommended control measure (4).
- Engineering control. Install additional machinery (such as local exhaust ventilation) to control the risk. If this method is not effective, then follow the next recommended control measure (5).
- Safer work practices. An example of this is to reduce the time the worker is exposed to the hazard. Only after all the previous measures have been tried and found to be ineffective in controlling the risk should Personal Protective Equipment be considered (6).
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This is the last control measure to be considered. If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted to the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.
- Provide welfare facilities, i.e. first aid and washing facilities for removal of contamination
- Look out for potential electrical and mechanical hazards in the workplace
- Also in some circumstances a combination of control measures may be the most effective method of controlling risk
A fundamental requirement for personal safety is the provision of instruction and training to instil a sense of care for those who may not be skilled in this area.
Also important is training in the wearing and use of PPE in a responsible manner and in accordance with legislation.
BOC has access to professionals and technical advisers who are able to help you receive the necessary training.
The information contained herein is provided as a general outline and is not intended to be a definitive statement on the subject matter.
Professional advice should be sought before any action is taken in relation to safety in the workplace.