How to conduct a risk assessment
In a world that is constantly evolving, it is vital to be prepared for the unexpected. Whether you are a business owner, project manager or team leader, understanding and managing risks is essential for safeguarding success. This is where the art of risk assessment comes into play.
As accredited health and safety training providers, HLS are passionate about the importance of creating a working environment that is safe for everyone from employees to employers, and this begins with a thorough risk assessment. That’s why we’ve generated this comprehensive guide to risk assessment protocol to give you the tools you need to minimise hazards across your business.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is an evaluation of a situation or place that involves identifying, assessing and controlling risks that might cause harm to your employees. The goal of a risk assessment is to both eliminate and control hazards as well as determine the level of risk and impact they are likely to have on employees and the business.
Risk assessments can be conducted to meet certain needs within the business and split into categories that are tailored to your industry. These could be general health and safety risk assessments, fall risk assessments and mental wellbeing risk assessments and many more.
Benefits of a risk assessment
There are several benefits to conducting regular risk assessments including:
- Compliance with legal requirements
- Eliminating potential threats
- Employee safety
- Increased productivity amongst happy employees
- Reduced risk of lawsuits
- Creating awareness of risks and hazards
- Determining your budget to mediate risks
- Justifying the cost of risk management equipment
- Preventing injury and illness
How to prepare for a risk assessment
To conduct the most productive and effective risk assessment, you need to implement a succinct plan. Good planning is the key to a smooth process where nothing is missed from your analysis.
In your plan you should:
- Select a competent person to carry out the risk assessment
- Determine the scope of assessment
- Create a comprehensive list of resources and assets required to carry out the risk assessment
- Identify the individuals who are involved in the risk assessment
- Familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations to which you must comply
HSE’s 5 steps of risk assessment
1. Identify the hazards
The first step towards successfully managing risks is to identify potential hazards that could impact your employees or your business.
- How your employees work and what equipment they use
- The existing workplace practises, both safe and unsafe
- The state of your premises
- Natural disasters that could occur
- Potential for workplace accidents
- Intentional risks i.e. strike action or robbery
- Emotional risks like burnout or bullying
- Logistical risks along the supply chain
- Previous incidents on the premises
You need to take all areas of your business and hazard perception into account for example manual handling, fire hazards, use of chemicals and danger to health.
To gain a comprehensive grasp that takes all risks into account, you’ll need to:
- Speak with your employees: Involve your employees as they work in the environment every day and will have a better gauge on the risks posed to them, as well as solutions on how to make their workplace more safe.
- Consider vulnerable workers: The most vulnerable workers in your workplace will be the ones most in need of risk management and will also have individual requirements. This includes expectant mothers, people with disabilities and migrant workers.
- Contact your local trade association: To gain insight into how other companies within your industry address associated risks.
- Engage with instructors manuals: If equipment or substances you use have instruction manuals, use them to inform the risks you include in your assessment.
- Include long-term hazards: Certain elements of a workplace might not pose immediate harm to your employees but impact their long-term health. For example, eye strain, exposure to loud noises or harmful substances such as asbestos.
You could also book an external workplace safety audit to assess your business impartially.
2. Assess the risks
Once the potential risks have been determined, you can create a list of how these risks might harm your employees and who they are most likely to harm.
From this, you can also assess the level of risk for each hazard you established in step 1.
You will need to decide:
- How you’re going to control the risks
- What action needs to be taken to control the risks
- Who needs to carry out this action
- The deadline for the action
3. Control the risks
Implementation of risk control is one of the most important steps in your risk assessment. It is all well assessing risks and planning for their occurrence, but if no action is taken to control the damage they may cause, then your employees will be needlessly put at risk.
Take a look at the controls you already have in place and see if there’s any way that you can tighten them. Is there any way that you can eliminate the danger altogether? If not, can the end result be made even less likely?
For example, if there is an existing rule that members of your workforce must wear dust masks when working with asbestos, but you know dust masks aren’t sufficient protection from asbestos fibres, it would be in their best interest to update PPE regulations to reduce the risk of asbestosis in existing and future employees.
You may need to implement further controls elsewhere including:
- Replacing materials and equipment used to complete a job
- Rethinking the job itself
- Imagining a new organisational process
- Implementing advances practical measures
- Updating PPE and enforcing its use
4. Record your findings
You must record your findings if you employ 5 or more employees.
In this record, include:
- The risks themselves
- Who might be harmed and how
- What you are doing to mitigate the risks
5. Review your findings
To ensure your hazard controls continue to be effective, you must continually review them. This should be done annually or in any of the following cases:
- You discover that your existing control measures are no longer effective
- There are changes in the workplace that could increase or pose new risks
- Your employees spot new problems
- An accident or near miss occurs
Risk assessment template
Risk assessment templates are often thought to be fairly complex but are simple to fill out and follow. Simply create a table or use the templates as laid out in the HSE resources.
Your template could follow the below structure:
|Who might be harmed and how
|Existing measures to minimise risk
|Further action you must take to control the risk
|Who needs to carry out this action?
Common workplace risks
Almost anything can be considered a hazard so it’s important that you are aware of some of the most common workplace hazards. This is so you can identify the most pressing risk to your employees and more clearly outline hazards by priority.
HSE outlines the following common causes of serious injury or illness at work:
- Display screen equipment
- Gas safety
- Manual handling
- Workplace transport
- Confined spaces
- Electrical safety
- Fire safety
- Excessive noise
- Pressure equipment
- Work related stress
- Harmful substances
- Working at height
They also outline A-Z guidance by industry to help you identify the hazards you’re most likely to face in your sector.
At HLS Training, we offer a wide variety of in-house training opportunities including NPORS, CPCS Assessments and practical E-Learning modules that train your workforce to a nationally recognised standard and prepare them for the hazards that come hand in hand with the working environment.
Our accredited trainers are ex-labourers who have worked on site and carried out our training in practice. We know our stuff, so feel free to get in touch and we’ll answer any questions you have about our in-house training opportunities.
Book your course today.