It goes without saying risk assessments are imperative under health and safety laws and failure to adhere to them could result in an offence. Essentially, they have been created to make sure employers make the workplace as safe as possible for employees. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have created 5 steps to follow which will help you.

Identify the hazards

The first thing to do is to know what hazards there are and the best way to do this is to scope out the workplace and identify anything you think could cause harm. And because there’s a chance you may miss something on your walk around it’s always good to ask other people if they’ve seen anything too. Over on the HSE website there’s a guide to where hazards may occur within lots of different industries and how you can keep on top of them. It’s also important to consider long-term hazards to health, as well as safety hazards, such as noise levels and exposure to harmful substances.

Decide who might be harmed and how

With each hazard identified you need to be concerned about who might be harmed and that will help determine the most effective way of managing the risk. Instead of just individuals it’s better to think about groups of employees working in certain areas and departments. Additionally, considering young workers, migrant workers, people with disabilities, pregnant women, any cleaners and contractors, and even members of the public, is essential. With each of these cases you also need to identify what type of injury they could suffer. For example, pickers may get a back injury from incorrectly lifting heavy boxes.

Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Once you know the hazards it’s time to do something about them and it’s required by law to have everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from coming to any harm. This is something you can find out yourself, but it’s easier to judge what you’re doing when it’s compared to good practice.

The first thing to do is think about what you’ve already got in place and how it’s organised. Then you need to evaluate against good practices and see if there’s more to be done to reach the standard. Secondly you need to question whether you can remove the hazard completely but if you can’t, is it possible to control the risks caused by it? To do that there are some principles you can apply such as trying less risky options in your operations, preventing access to known hazards or providing welfare facilities such as first aid or washing areas. Improving health and safety in the workplace doesn’t need to cost a lot and it won’t if you think of some cost-effective ways to do it. For example, using a mirror in a blind spot area to prevent vehicles colliding.

Record your findings and implement them

Once you have the results of your risk assessment it’s time to put it into practice. Write them up but keep it simple, for example ‘Unsighted corner: mirror provided to see oncoming traffic, staff instructed, will monitor weekly’. Your risk assessment does not need to be perfect, but it does have to be proper and satisfactory and they need to show the below:

  • A proper check has been made
  • You found out who could be affected
  • You dealt with all obvious considerable hazards, bearing in mind the amount of people who might be involved
  • The precautions are fair, and the outstanding risk is low
  • You involved the affected workforce or their representative during the process

Review your risk assessment and update if necessary

Expect that things are likely to change so it’s always important to carry out routine reviews. Look at your risk assessment and consider whether there have been changes, if anybody else has spotted a problem and if anything has been learnt from any accidents or near misses. And make sure your risk assessment is always up to date.

An efficient way to follow these steps

Whilst the 5 steps to risk assessments are a great way to keep on top of health and safety, it can be enhanced further by digitising the process. With OpsBase you can pull together your staff, communications, tasks and compliance in one simple app so all records, audit trails and information is at your finger tips. If you would like to know more, please get in touch.

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