Workplace safety risk assessments may be conducted differently at different companies. However, there are some basic steps that should be part of every company’s workplace risk assessment. These steps can be tailored easily to company and industry needs in order to make sure companies comply with laws and regulations that govern different industries. Many of the risks employees face in the workplace are easy to spot and don’t require a complex solution.
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5 Basic Steps for a Risk Assessment
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website outlines and explains five tips for conducting a risk assessment:
1. Identify the hazards:
Consulting lists developed by safety groups can also help you to look for specific hazards in the workplace. OSHA has provided a great graphic outlining six categories of hazards and their risks. 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 website 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 every day 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 neighborhoods, etc.
- People who are not in the workplace every day – 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 assess 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.