Workplace safety risk assessments are conducted in a unique way at each company. However, there are some general, basic steps that should be part of every company’s workplace risk assessment. These steps can be tailored easily to specific company and industry needs in order to make sure that company’s comply to laws and regulations that govern various industries. Many of the risks employees face in the workplace are easy to spot and do not require a complex solution.
5 Basic Steps for a Risk Assessment:
The Health and Safety Executive outline and explain 5 tips for conducting a risk assessment:
1. Identify the hazards:
Take a walk through your workplace to identify hazards. Some hazards may be easy to identify and others may require some assistance from other professionals outside of your business (ie. Health and Safety Experts, machinists, etc.). You will want to observe employees completing their daily tasks in order to identify additional risks and to see if there could be an easier way for them to complete tasks. It’s important to talk to your employees while conducting your assessment because they are the ones who will have the best feedback regarding issues that may not be as obvious to you.
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Consulting lists developed by safety groups can also help you to look for specific hazards in the workplace. The Ontario Service Safety Alliance provides a great chart that you can view here, outlining different categories of hazards, where they can be found, as well as the type of risk or illness that can present itself should the hazard remain unattended to. Review past incident reports and complaints in order to ensure that the corrective action actually managed to reduce as much risk as possible.
Past reports are a great place to look to for less obvious hazards. The HSE also recommends considering the long term effects of the work environment on employees. Loud noises and other factors may not seem harmful to your employees, but what happens is they are exposed to these everyday for many years?
Note: There is a difference between risks and hazards outlined by the group at Healthy Working Lives:
Risk: The likelihood that damage, loss or injury will be caused by a hazard and how severe the outcome may be.
Hazard: Anything with the potential to cause harm- electricity, hazardous substances and noise are examples of typical hazards.
2. Decide who could be harmed and in what way:
Establish groups that are affected by the risks and hazards you identified in your search. To see the bigger picture, understand that there are groups outside of your workplace that might be harmed if corrective action is not taken. Record the ways that they could be harmed if the hazard or risk is not corrected and review the list with your employees to see if there is anything else they have to add.
The HSE provides some examples of groups that could be harmed:
- Members of the public- consumers, people in nearby neighbourhoods, etc.
- People that are not in the workplace everyday- contractors, cleaners, visitors, etc.
- Various types of employees- new employees, expectant mothers, those with disabilities all face different types of risks in the workplace.
3. Establish Control Measures:
The HSE suggests asking yourself these two questions and recording the steps you will need to take to answer them:
- Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
- If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
4. Record the findings of your assessment and inform those at risk of the controls:
Report your findings and proposed solutions to all employees. It might also be a good time to provide some additional training regarding any changes to procedures, updates to your health and safety policy and to provide a “refresher” session to employees to remind them that they have their responsibilities in ensuring a safe workplace.
The HSE suggests including a timeline in your course of action, as some hazards can be easily fixed immediately, whereas some require more time to correct. A timeline is also useful to help establish temporary solutions for dealing with the hazards that will take longer to correct in full. Identify, assign and put a date on the responsibilities of those involved carrying out any of the changes.
5. Review the Risk Assessment on a regular basis:
Changes are always occurring in the workplace in order to remain current with policies and procedures. As these changes take place, it is important asses these areas when implemented into your workplace to reduce risk. Remain up to date on incidents that take place at work. Handle incidents immediately and record the actions taken to reduce the risk from occurring again- this allows you to remember to check up on this area during your formal risk assessment. Make your risk assessment an annual event.
If you conduct your assessment around the same time each year, it’s easier to place the assessment as a priority and demonstrates your commitment to workplace safety.