What is a Risk Assessment

Risk assessments are used by millions of people across the UK every day to help reduce the risk of workplace injuries but what is a risk assessment?

Put simply a risk assessment is a detailed analysis of hazards that can develop when performing a task at work; its main purpose is to reduce workplace accidents by highlighting specific hazards and identifying those most at risk and offering them a safe alternative when carrying out their tasks.

Workplace safety is critical; being able to identify risks and hazards before they actually occur is the simplest and most cost-effective way of reducing workplace accidents. For a risk assessment to be effective and true it needs to be compiled by a competent person who’s familiar with health and safety procedures and has an eye for detail.

Are risk assessments required by law?

Yes, one of your employer’s main duties is to ensure you have a safe working environment, they need to take all necessary steps to ensure the job you’re about to do does not put you at obvious risk.

It’s obvious that some jobs have a high degree of risk involved but everything reasonably practicable needs to be done to ensure you are not setting yourself up for an accident.

Do self-employed people need risk assessments?

Yes, risk assessments don’t just apply to employers. If you’re a self-employed person then a risk assessment needs to be carried out to identify the health and safety risks involved in your work. It’s a legal requirement that all self-employed people must adhere to.

Who can write a risk assessment?

Employers and self-employed people are responsible for the health and safety of their respective businesses; this means the task is ultimately theirs. However, the task of creating a risk assessment can be delegated to another member of staff. In most cases, this would be someone who is competent and has an understanding of health and safety in a working environment.

Do you need any specific training to carry out a risk assessment?

No, the task of carrying out a risk assessment does not require any special training or qualification. However, the person being appointed to carry out the risk assessment or the “competent person” should possess the necessary knowledge, experience and skills required to effectively identify potential hazards.

Five steps to an effective risk assessment

Assessing the risks in a workplace environment is all but essential in guaranteeing the safety and security of all those that may be involved in daily operations. Thankfully, there are five concise and logical ways to help mitigate any such workplace risks.

Step One: Identify any Hazards

This will entirely depend upon the specific environment. Risks can include:

  • Machinery with moving parts.
  • Electrical devices.
  • Slippery floors.
  • Inadequate lighting.

Step Two: Who is at risk and how can they be harmed?

The best way to minimise risk is to identify those that may be directly in harm’s way. This should include employees, visitors and even pedestrians or other third parties that may be passing through.

Secondly, the type of harm they may encounter is also critical to appreciate. Slipping, falling or injury due to exposure to dangerous machinery are but a few examples.

Step Three: Risk evaluation and necessary precautions

The chances of each risk should be carefully considered. How likely is a certain event to occur? It is only after such an evaluation can the necessary precautionary steps be taken.

Such steps can include moving dangerous machinery to areas with less foot traffic, improving lighting conditions or installing non-slip flooring.

Step Four: Recording and implementation

All findings should be recorded and centrally stored so that others will have easy access to them when the need arises. There are numerous software packages available that will enable all colleagues and stakeholders to examine the findings and take appropriate actions to help prevent potential accidents.

Step Five: Assessment and review

There are few workplaces that remain static in reference to safety and health hazards. For example, construction sites will present varying degrees of risk depending on the specific job.

Therefore, it is important to conduct comprehensive reviews of the aforementioned assessments when necessary. Time periods between reviews will naturally vary; an office environment may only require a bi-annual review while a work site may need to perform such reviews monthly.

These are the five most important steps that need to be undertaken in a thorough risk assessment. Adhering to these steps will help assure that all personnel involved are adequately prepared and educated in regard to any health and safety risks that may exist.

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