As an employer, you’re required by law to protect your employees, and others, from harm. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum you must do is:
- identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
- decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously ( risk)
- take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
Assessing risk is just one part of the overall process used to control risks in your workplace.
Risk management is a 5 step process for controlling health and safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace.
The Managment of Health and Safety at Work Regulations you must appoint a competent H&S person. Though can do a risk assessment yourself, if you feel confident that you will have everything covered. Here is some information to help you in the process:
- Identify hazards
- Assess the risks
- Control the risks
- Record your findings
- Review the controls
Identify hazards Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards):
- how people work and how plant and equipment are used
- what chemicals and substances are used
- what safe or unsafe work practices exist
- the general state of your premises
Look at historical accident and ill health records as these can help you identify less obvious hazards. Take account of non-routine operations, such as maintenance, cleaning or changes in production.
Think about hazards to health, both physical and psychosocial such as manual handling, use of chemicals and causes of work-related stress and mental health.
For each hazard, think about how employees, contractors, visitors or members of the public might be harmed.
Vulnerable workers –Some workers have particular requirements, for example young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities.
Talk to the people – Involve your employees as they will usually have great ideas.
Assess the risks Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious it could be. This is assessing the level of risk.
- Who might be harmed and how
- What you’re already doing to control the risks
- What further action you need to take to control the risks
- Who needs to carry out the action
- When the action is needed by
Control the risks Look at what you’re already doing, and the controls you already have in place. Ask:
- Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
- If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
If you need further controls, consider:
- redesigning the job
- replacing the materials, machinery or process
- organising your work to reduce exposure to the materials, machinery or process
- identifying and implementing practical measures needed to work safely
- providing personal protective equipment and making sure workers wear it
Put the controls you have identified in place. You’re not expected to eliminate all risks but you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money and time, but you must be able to justify how you have made that decision.
You can contact us for more detailed guidance on controls relevant to your business.
Record your findings If you employ 5 or more people, you must record your significant findings, including.
- the hazards (things that may cause harm)
- who might be harmed and how
- what you are doing to control the risks
To help you, we have a risk assessment template and examples. Do not rely purely on paperwork as your main priority should be to control the risks in practice.
Review the controls You must review the controls you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if:
- they may no longer be effective
- there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks such as changes to:
- a process
- the substances or equipment used
Also consider a review if your people have spotted any problems or there have been any accidents or near misses.
Update your risk assessment record with any changes you make.
Our top tip – Do not just copy an example or a risk assessment from an internet search and put your company name to it as that would not satisfy the law and would not protect your people. You must think about the specific hazards and controls your business needs, don’t forget the psychosocial.
Call us if you need help.