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Conducting a Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a fundamental process within the realm of workplace health and safety, aimed at identifying, evaluating, and mitigating potential hazards and dangers that employees may encounter within their daily duties.

Conducting a risk assessment in the workplace is not only a legal requirement, but also a responsible and ethical practice, as it helps prevent accidents, injuries, and even fatalities, whilst safeguarding a company’s assets, reputation, and productivity.

By thoroughly analysing the risks, an organisation can develop informed strategies and control measures to create a safer work environment for its employees.

But what are the main steps you should be taking when conducting a risk assessment?

  1. Step 1: Hazard Identification: Identify processes and situations that may cause harm, particularly to employees.
  1. Step 2: Analysis and evaluation: Determine how likely it is that each hazard will occur and how severe the consequences would be.
  1. Step 3: Risk control: Decide what steps your organisation can take to stop these hazards from occurring or to control the risk when the hazard can’t be eliminated.

It’s important to note the difference between hazards and risks

A hazard is anything that can cause harm, including work accidents, emergency situations, toxic chemicals, employee conflicts, stress, and more. 

A risk, on the other hand, is the chance that a hazard will cause harm. As part of your risk assessment plan, you will first identify potential hazards and then calculate the risk or likelihood of those hazards occurring.

The purpose of a risk assessment will vary across industries, but overall, the goal is to help organisations prepare for, and, of course, combat potential risks. All businesses should perform a risk assessment before introducing new processes or activities, changes to existing processes or activities, or when a new hazard is identified.

When conducting a risk assessment, you should consider the following: 

  1. Identify the hazards
    The first step to creating your risk assessment is determining what hazards your employees and your business face, including:
  • Natural disasters (flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, etc.)
  • Biological hazards (pandemic diseases, foodborne illnesses, etc.)
  • Workplace accidents (slips and trips, transportation accidents, structural failure, mechanical breakdowns, etc.)
  • Intentional acts (labor strikes, demonstrations, bomb threats, robbery, arson, etc.)
  • Technological hazards (lost Internet connection, power outage, etc.)
  • Chemical hazards (asbestos, cleaning fluids, etc.)
  • Mental hazards (excess workload, bullying, etc.)
  • Interruptions in the supply chain

Identify what processes or activities could potentially harm your organisation and employees, and include all aspects of work, such as remote workers and non-routine activities like those with repair and maintenance roles.

2. Determine who might be harmed and how
Think about how your employees could be harmed by business activities or external factors. For every hazard that you identify in step one, think about who will be harmed should the hazard take place, and how you can combat these scenarios.

3. Evaluate the risks and take precautions
Consider how likely it is that the hazard will occur and how severe the consequences will be if it happens. This evaluation will help you determine where you should reduce the level of risk and which hazards you should prioritise first.

4. Record your findings
If you have more than five employees in your office, you are required by law to write down your risk assessment process. Your plan should include the hazards you’ve found, the people they affect, and how you plan to mitigate them. The record, or the risk assessment plan should show that you:

  • Conducted a proper check of your workspace
  • Determined who would be affected
  • Controlled and dealt with obvious hazards
  • Initiated precautions to keep risks low
  • Kept your employees involved in the process

5. Review your assessment and update if necessary
Your workplace is always changing, so risks will change too. As new equipment, processes, and people are introduced, each brings the risk of a new hazard.

Ensure you are continually reviewing and updating your risk assessment process to stay on top of these new hazards, which in turn, will provide both you, and your employees, a safe work environment.

If you’d like support on improving health and safety within your organisation, view the range of ProCompliance courses available today!

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