A Top Tips guide to Risk Assessments

31 July, 2013
Pat Perry

"The process of a Risk Assessment can be described as a careful examination of what, in your workplace, could cause harm to your employees or others, the likelihood of that harm occurring and what steps you need to take to reduce the risks of injury or ill health to an acceptable level. Every employer has a duty to undertake an assessment of the hazards and risks associated with work activities and to implement controls which either eliminates the hazard or reduces the risk to acceptable levels" that's according to Pat Perry, Executive Chairman at leading health and safety consultancy, Perry Scott Nash.

If a work activity does not pose any health and safety risks then there is no need to carry out a Risk Assessment, although a Risk Assessment of sorts will be carried out in order to establish that the job task has no hazards and risk attached to it. However, as an employer and business owner, it's your job to assess activities in the workplace that have the potential to cause harm, and where appropriate, carry out a risk assessment.

Below are a few top tips from Perry Scott Nash for managing risk assessments:

How can I identify potential hazards that may require a Risk Assessment?

Walk around the workplace and look at what could cause harm to both employees and others. Also, consider whether there would be any additional risks to young people and pregnant or nursing mothers.

Concentrate on significant hazards which have the potential for quite serious injury or ill health or which could affect many people.

Speak to employees and ask them what they would identify as hazards associated with their jobs - run a hazard identification campaign.

Hazards could be associated with:

  1. Equipment - how it is used, guards, controls, noise
  2. Work processes - how things are done, systems to be followed
  3. Environmental conditions - floors, heating, ventilation etc
  4. Materials in use - chemicals, gases, substances etc

Common Hazards

  1. Fire
  2. Slips, trips and falls from uneven or slippery floor surfaces
  3. Falling objects
  4. Electricity
  5. Hazardous substances
  6. Transport vehicles
  7. Using equipment
  8. Excessive temperatures
  9. Lack of ventilation

10.  Poor lighting

11.  Confined spaces

12.  Explosive atmospheres

13.  Changes in floor level

14.  Use of portable equipment

15.  Use of hand tools

Is there a standard format for a Risk Assessment?

As every Risk Assessment needs to be "site specific" there is no official format.

The essential point is that it must be both readable and informative to an employee as he or she must understand what hazards they may be exposed to when carrying out the task.

Generally, any format that includes the following will be suitable:

  1. Description of the job task
  2. Location of activity
  3. Who will carry it out
  4. Who else might be affected by the task
  5. What are the hazards identified
  6. What could go wrong
  7. What might the injuries be and how severe might they be
  8. How likely are the risks
  9. What can be done to reduce or eliminate the hazards

10.  What information do employees or others need to work safely

11.  When might the risk assessment be reviewed

The HSE publish guidance on how to complete Risk Assessments and they include a Risk Assessment template:http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/assessment.htm

Top Tips

  • A Risk Assessment is really a common sense approach to identifying hazards and deciding what harm could happen.
  • Significant risks must be recorded in writing where there are more than five employees.
  • Cover any site-specific issues.
  • Review Risk Assessments regularly.
  • Risk Assessments are often the most critical pieces of paper in any accident investigation or court case.
  • Take extra special care with pregnant employees.
  • Remember:
  • HAZARD is the potential to cause harm.
  • RISK is the likelihood that the harm will be realised.
  • Control measures are used to reduce the hazard and risk where it cannot be eliminated. Follow the hierarchy of risk control:
  • Eliminate the hazard.
  • Substitute the hazard for a lesser hazard.
  • Control the hazard at source.
  • Protect the whole workforce.
  • Protect the individual employee.
  • Provide training and instruction.

For more information on this or other matters relating to health and safety in the workplace Contact Us.

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