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The Importance of Risk Assessments in the Workplace

Updated: Apr 22




Ensuring the health and safety of employees and visitors within the workplace is a legal requirement and a fundamental responsibility for businesses across all industries. This is where a risk assessment plays an important role in everyday business.

 

Conducting health and safety risk assessments ensures that your business complies with legal requirements outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and subsequent regulations set out by the Health and Safety Executive.

 

The law places a duty on employers to identify and manage workplace risks adequately. By conducting a risk assessment, you demonstrate your commitment to meeting legal obligations, reducing the risk of non-compliance, and potentially avoiding penalties or legal consequences.

 

What is a risk assessment?

Put simply, a risk assessment is the process of identifying, understanding, and evaluating potential hazards in the workplace that could cause harm, including making sure the environment is safe for employees or visitors, and ensuring that equipment is safe for staff to use.

 

For organisations employing five or more staff, finding of assessments must be recorded in writing.

 

Conducting a workplace risk assessment is a legal obligation for employers and a crucial step towards creating a safe working environment by identifying sensible measures to control hazards and risks.

 

Carrying out a risk assessment

The process of successfully carrying out a risk assessment involves:

  • Identifying the hazards: what are the workplace risks that could harm someone?

  • Identifying who might be harmed: who is most at risk of harm because of potential hazards identified?

  • Evaluating the level of risk: how likely is it that harm will occur and what adjustments or protective measures can be put in place to prevent this?

 

1.       Identify key hazards

A good way to identify potential hazards is to walk around all areas of your business premises and make a note of anything that could cause harm by systematically examining the work environment, processes, equipment, substances used, and other relevant factors. By identifying hazards such as slippery floors, faulty machinery, hazardous chemicals, or poor ventilation, you can understand the risks that could injure or harm staff or be hazardous to their health.

 

Examples of hazards could include:

  • Computer cables trailing across the floor.

  • Poorly stacked stock that could fall

  • Exposed high-voltage equipment or machinery.

  • Computer cables trailing across the floor.

  • A floor that becomes slippery when wet.

  • A poorly lit warehouse that holds heavy stock.

  • Toxic chemicals used in your factory with the potential to cause harm.

 

Consider checking instruction sheets and manuals for products, equipment, and machinery to understand hazards and what can be done to mitigate risks, such as lockable cages for chemicals. 

 

2.       Identify who might be at risk

Consider who could be affected by each hazard and how they could be harmed. This includes employees as well as visitors to site. Understanding the different groups of people involved and assessing their vulnerability allows you to tailor control measures accordingly. For instance, certain individuals may be more susceptible to the effects of a hazardous substance due to ill health or other medical conditions, emphasising the need for thorough safety policies.

 

It may be that some hazards are more likely to affect staff after prolonged usage, such as staff who use certain equipment for extended periods during the day, or those regularly exposed to noisy machinery or harmful substances.

 

Ask staff to see what they think the hazards are in your organisation – they may notice hazards that you have not considered.

 

3.       Evaluate levels of risk

The next stage of carrying out a risk assessment is evaluating the level of risk of identified hazards occurring. The aim isn’t necessarily to operate in a risk free environment, as it would make it difficult to run the organisation, but it’s about knowing what the key risks are, the potential impact they could have, and what you can do to manage them reasonably and practicably.

 

This involves considering the likelihood of an incident occurring and the severity of the consequences if it does. By combining these factors, you can address hazards and allocate resources effectively. This assessment allows you to focus on high-risk areas, where more robust control measures may be required while addressing lower-risk areas in a proportionate manner.

 

One organisation can pose different hazards to another, even if they’re both in the same industry.

 

4.       Preventing hazards

When implementing actions to reduce risks, bear in mind that small, cost-effective changes such as staff awareness, signage, higher voltage light bulbs or a slippery floor sign can all help to reduce and prevent risks, and can be quick and effective interventions. Providing personal protective equipment and ensuring that it is used or worn can be a great place to start in reducing risks.

 

This step involves considering various strategies, such as engineering controls (modifying equipment or processes), administrative controls (implementing policies and procedures), or personal protective equipment (providing necessary protective gear). The aim is to reduce the likelihood of incidents and minimise the potential consequences should they occur.

 

5.       Actioning risk assessment outcomes

Once you’ve determined the actions that need to be taken to improve health and safety in the workplace, you should produce a list of control measures (actions) to mitigate or eliminate the risks and tick them off when complete.

 

6.       Recording your findings

The recording of Risk Assessment findings is a critical aspect of any effective health and safety risk assessment. It involves documenting the identified hazards, the individuals affected, the assessed risks, and the control measures put in place. Accurate and thorough documentation serves as a reference point for future assessments, helps monitor the effectiveness of control measures, and demonstrates compliance with legal requirements. It also allows for transparency and effective communication for everyone involved in managing health and safety.

 

7.       Reviewing your assessment of risks

Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly to make sure they remain valid, are fit for purpose, and encompass any changes to equipment, processes or working practices. A risk assessment will need updating when changes are made so that you are compliant with safety at work regulations. They should also be reviewed after near misses or accidents to see if further control measures can be implemented to avoid further issues.

You maintain a proactive approach to health and safety management by continuously reviewing and updating your risk controls, promoting a safer and healthier working environment.

 

8.       What are the potential consequences of not conducting a risk assessment?

Failing to conduct a risk assessment can lead to serious legal consequences, including penalties, fines, or even prosecution. Additionally, without a risk assessment, you may expose your employees and others to unnecessary hazards, increasing the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and associated financial losses.

 

9.       Can I seek external assistance for conducting a workplace risk assessment?

Yes, organisations can seek external assistance for conducting risk assessments. We offer specialised health and safety consultancy services that provide health and safety expertise and management. External assistance can be particularly beneficial for complex businesses or those that operate in a high-risk industry, where additional expertise is required to ensure thorough and accurate assessments. External assistance is also perfect for smaller businesses as an extremely cost-effective and efficient way to achieve legal compliance.

 

Get in touch for your free risk assessment template

Carrying out risk assessments is a key part of health and safety in business, which is why we are happy to provide a free risk assessment template to clients.


If you would benefit from additional advice about risk assessments or health and safety at work, please get in touch.


Please contact Robinson Grace HR for further advice and support via clientservices@robinsongracehr.com or call us on 01793 311937 to see if we can help you.


Check out other Blogs in our series:


The content of our blogs is intended for general information only and does not replace legal or other professional advice.


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