What is a Risk Assessment?


What is a risk assessment?
By Lucy Walsh

A risk assessment is the process of evaluating any potential risks that may be involved within the workplace. This could include activities, workspace and location. They should also be carried out to check for risks associated with buildings such as fire, water and asbestos.

The main purpose and role of a risk assessment is to ensure that you have identified any hazards that may occur within the workplace or with the work activity which may lead to illness, injury or – in some cases – death. Once the risks have been identified, the business will then be able to start putting in place measures to eliminate the chances of injury or illness occurring, which will in turn create a safer working environment. It is also important to consider the risks to people who may visit your premises, such as customers, suppliers, contractors or members of the public.

Carrying out suitable and sufficient risk assessments is the primary management tool in effective risk management. It is a legal requirement for any employer and must be documented wherever five or more people are employed.

Where do you start?
When carrying out a risk assessment, it is always a good idea to work alongside your staff as they are the ones who will be working in the environment day in, day out. They may be able to inform you of incidents or near misses that have happened in the past which may not be so obvious to anyone else.

The next step is to assess the risk. Once you have been able to identify the hazards, you will then need to think about how much of a risk they carry. Think about how these hazards could potentially cause an injury in different situations and conditions. As a business, you should consider the likelihood that someone will be harmed and how serious the injury would be. There are various calculations you can use to prioritise the severity of the risk, for example the likelihood x severity, which works out what the overall risk rating is.

What next?
After you have carried out a risk assessment, the first thing you should look at is ways to eliminate, reduce or control the risk as much as you possibly can. Can the risk be eliminated by introducing something quite simple and obvious? For example, working at height creates a high level of risk, so if the work can be done at ground level e.g. using extendable poles or raising and lowering equipment then the risk can be minimalised. One piece of advice we give to our clients is to first try to remove the risk. If that is not possible, then look at how you can reduce the risk and always record the findings and the review.

Once the assessment has taken place, the business should review the effectiveness of the procedures it has put in place. This way you can see whether the changes you have made make the working life better for the staff and reduce the chances of illness or injury. If you have had something installed, has it been set up correctly, does it work properly and safely?

As well as avoiding injury, there are other benefits of carrying out risk assessments too, including saving costs for the company. Putting in measures to avoid injury and illness can reduce illnesses and times off work, compensation and even life insurance payouts. It can also help with employee engagement by showing that safety comes first, resulting in greater loyalty from staff members.

Going forward
There is no set amount of time that you are required to retain the risk assessment, but it is best practice to keep it as long as is considered relevant to a particular task or activity. Risk assessments are an integral part of ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone within the workplace. They will protect your workers and your business, as well as comply with law and statutory duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and associated regulations by reducing the level of incidents/accidents.

If you would like further information on risk assessments and what any impartial advice, contact Lucy on 07748 860076 or 01536 770249 or email [email protected]