The Five Stages of Risk Assessment

by Sean Fowden

Is risk assessment rocket science? No of course it isn’t.

Recorded,Documented risk assessments for tasks or operations with significant risk are by law, for any business with five or more employees. So, carry them out, preferably with the people involved and value their input, include,engage,embrace your workforce in the safety culture. The findings need to be cascaded,communicated to all the workforce, there is no point leaving them in a filing cabinet, that will not improve safety standards,culture.

I have never done a risk assessment! Of course you have, if you drive a vehicle,car,bike, you perform one at every junction, (I hope), looking both,each ways before driving on, if it is clear to do so. If you cross a street,road,highwayon foot you do the same thing, look both ways before you ,step out.

Risk assessment is 90% common sense, up mess,spillages, repair leaks, dont leave draws open for people to into. No trailing cables,wires. Specialist information,knowledge of machinery, production,processes or chemicals,products will,may be needed, so make sure you have this advice when you need it.

Employees,Staff,Workforce are your business’s most valuable asset, so doesn’t it make business sense to protect them. It also makes legal, moral sense.

It is impossible to eliminate all risk and the law would not expect you to, you are to do what is reasonably practicable. The definition of this is, what an open minded, reasonable person would expect to be in place. Sometimes referred to in legalise The man on the Clapham Omnibus, but you can Google that yourself.

The Definition of Risk Assessment

A thoughtful,thorough investigation of the workplace to identify hazards and the controls that are in place to protect anyone visiting the workplace.

Are the precautions that are in place sufficient or are changes needed?

Did you know?

o 245 people in the UK are killed at work each year not including road related deaths

o There are 30,000 work related serious injuries every year, 1 every 17 minutes o 137,000 people in the UK were injured or killed in work related incidents last year

o 2 million people in the UK believe their illness to be caused or made worse by work

o 25,000 leave work every year never to return o 38.5 million working days are lost in the UK through injury or ill each year which is a 30 billion annual cost to businesses

Did you know?

o The average fine for successful prosecution by the HSE was 18,765 in 2004 and this is not covered by insurance!

Five Stages of Risk Assessment

Stage 1 Hazard Identification

Pretend you are new and look at everything with a fresh view, is what you record reasonable or should changes be made.

Everyone in the workplace will have an opinion, seek them out and evaluate their comments.

Equipment and product suppliers are by law to supply information of any hazards with their products. Check this documentation as it will be very useful.

The less obvious hazards may also be identified by using records already in your possession, such as accident and ill health records.

Not all hazards are immediately obvious, noise and exposure to dust for instance may not manifest themselves for some years.

Step 2 Who is at risk and how?

You need to know who may be harmed, so a comprehensive list should be compiled, This will give you the basis for providing the necessary protective measures.

Descriptions of harm are needed, type of injury, e.g. repetitive tasks like on a production line. There are special requirements for some groups of workers like young people, pregnant women, disabled persons.

Extra thought will be needed for some hazards workers in particular disciplines such as cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, may not be in the workplace all the time. Also consider members of the public if they could be hurt by your activities. If you share your workplace, you will need to think about how your work affects others present, as well as how their work affects your staff ” talk to them and ask your staff if they can think of anyone you may have missed.

Step 3 Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

There are Approved Codes of Practice available from the HSE which are taken to be industry best practice. What are you going to do about the hazards, everything reasonably practicable is the answer.

Measure your performance against the approved codes of practice, and make improvements as necessary

Use the ERICPD acronym to check that you Eliminate, Reduce, Isolate, Control, PPE (personal protective equipment), Discipline of the workforce to work correctly

Step 4 Record your findings and implement them

All findings should be written down, kept simple and not too elaborate. For example ‘Tripping over rubbish bins provided’, Staff instructed, Housekeeping checks now in place weekly. Welding fume, local exhaust ventilation used and inspected regularly

Make sure your risk assessment is sufficient and suitable to evaluate the hazard properly, they are rarely perfect.

You need to be able to show

o a proper check was made

o who might be affected

o the significant hazards are controlled

o all people potentially involved

o precautions are reasonable

o staff were involved

o the remaining risk is low

Dont try to do everything at once. Make a plan of action to deal with the most important things first. Health and safety inspectors acknowledge the efforts of businesses that are clearly trying to make improvements.

o Quick fixes

o Medium and long term goals

o Training

Step 5 Review your risk assessment and update if necessary

Review at least annually

Nothing stays the same

o Changes

o Improvements

o Any near misses or accidents

o Ask the workers if everything is OK

o If you know there has been a change review immediately

Some frequently asked questions (Courtesy of HSE Web Site)

What if the work I do tends to vary a lot, or I (or my employees) from one site to another?

Identify the hazards you can reasonably expect and assess the risks from them. This general assessment should stand you in good stead for the majority of your work. Where you do take on work or a new site that is different, cover any new or different hazards with a specific assessment. You do not have to start from scratch each time.

What if I share a workplace?

Tell the other employers and self-employed people there about any risks your work could cause them, and what precautions you are taking. Also, think about the risks to your own workforce from those who share your workplace.

Do my employees have responsibilities?

Yes. Employees have legal responsibilities to co-operate with their employers efforts to improve health and safety (e.g. they must wear protective equipment when it is provided), and to look out for each other.

What if one of my employees circumstances change?

Youll need to look again at the risk assessment. You are to carry out a specific risk assessment for new or expectant mothers, as some tasks (heavy lifting or work with chemicals for example) may not be appropriate. If an employee develops a disability then you are required to make reasonable adjustments. People returning to work following major surgery may also have particular requirements. If you put your mind to it, you can almost always find a way forward that works for you and your employees.

What if I have already assessed some of the risks?

If, for example, you use hazardous chemicals and you have already assessed the risks to health and the precautions you need to take under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), you can consider them checked and on.

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