11 Apr How To Write A Risk Assessment
As an employer, you are legally required to protect the safety of staff and the general public under the Health And Safety At Work Act 1974.
According to HSE guidance, as part of this obligation, you should schedule and review risk assessments ‘every time there are new machines, substances and procedures, which could lead to new hazards’ introduced to your site – or at least once per year.
In particular, employers should fill out a risk assessment under these circumstances:
• Every time new hazardous materials or machinery are brought onto the site
• Every time a procedure presents new hazards
• Whenever they are alerted to a new hazard on site – like for example, reports of harassment or abuse, or an unusual level of staff sickness
• When the risk level of certain employees changes – as in the case of aggressive behaviour or vulnerability due to health concerns
• When an employee is pregnant or breastfeeding, and there may be a risk to them or their child
Additionally, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must as a minimum:
• Identify any hazards to health or safety in the business
• Determine the likelihood of harm occurring
• Take action to eliminate (or at least reduce) the risk of harm
Let’s now explore the three simple steps to successfully filling in a risk assessment.
Step 1: Identify The Hazards
If you have worked in your business for a long time, it’s easy to become blind to potential hazards on your premises.
Appointing a competent person to take charge of this responsibility, or asking for feedback from your employees, is an excellent way to get another perspective – and they might spot something you don’t!
When undertaking a risk assessment, remember PEME – People, Equipment, Machinery, and Environment. Risks of this type can include:
• Trip hazards, such as wires and debris on the floor
• Areas or equipment that could cause a fall from a height, such as ladders or platforms
• Machinery and electrical hazards, such as faulty switches or broken wires
• Biological hazards, such as black mould, blood, or pests
• Manual handling risks, such as lifting heavy objects
• Hazardous chemicals
• People – are there individuals in your environment who are known to be aggressive or violent? And conversely, are there any individuals who may be at higher risk of harm from others?
When you have identified the risks present in your business environment, consider who might be harmed in the event of an accident. This can be staff, contractors, or members of the public.
Consider too any personal vulnerabilities that may put certain people at a higher risk than others – for instance, an employee who has vertigo or balance issues may not be suitable for working on tall platforms or raised areas.
Step 2: Evaluate The Risks
When you have established the potential risks, you are then required to determine how severe the consequences of these risks are, and how likely they are to occur. You can do this using a risk matrix, which weighs up the seriousness of the risk with the likelihood of it happening.
When you have determined the severity of the risk, you will know whether action has to be taken immediately.
These are the kind of actions that should be taken for each category of risk:
Very High Risk – All operations should be ceased and risk mitigation measures should be conducted without delay. Employees should not resume work until action has been taken and the risk assessment has been reviewed and proven safe.
High Risk – This level of risk is unacceptable, and action should be taken as soon as possible.
Medium Risk – Risks rated ‘Medium’ can be tolerated, but should be monitored regularly to detect any changes in risk level.
Low Risk – Risks rated ‘low’ are acceptable, but should be monitored to detect any changes in risk level.
Step 3: Take Action!
When you have established the source of the risk, and evaluated the risk level, you can then consider what control measures you should use to eliminate or reduce the risk.
Could you move obstructions away from fire doors? Can your workers wear protective clothing? Are there any relevant procedures or strategies you can introduce into your workplace that will ensure your workers and the general public stay safe?
Go through the potential control measures according to the acronym ERIC PD: Eliminate, Reduce, Isolate, Control, PPE, and Discipline:
Eliminate – Remove any objects or procedures that have the potential to cause harm
Reduce – If you cannot eliminate the source of the risk, how can you reduce the danger that it presents?
Isolate – Can you confine this hazardous material, equipment, machine, or process to one area?
Control – What processes and procedures can you put in place to manage the risk?
PPE – Is there any personal protective equipment and/or clothing that your employees can use to protect against the risk factor?
Discipline – Continuously review and enforce all control measures
Writing The Risk Assessment
When you have followed the previous three steps, you can sit down and document the risks you have identified, the severity, likelihood, and rating of the risks, and all the actions you have taken to eliminate or reduce the risk factors.
Take every potential risk into account when writing your risk assessment, and consider everyone who might be involved in an accident in your workplace – including members of the public.
Remember, if there is an accident or a near-miss at your premises, you may be investigated by a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, and your risk assessment will be the first thing they check when they receive your case.
Therefore, make it 100% clear in your risk assessment how you have taken action to eliminate – or at the very least, reduce – the risk to your staff and to members of the public. And to avoid any misinterpretations that could cause you difficulties in the case of an investigation, be sure to write your risk assessment clearly and concisely, and have others proofread it for you.
Once your risk assessment is complete, it should be reviewed whenever there are changes to machinery, equipment, substances, or procedures on your site.
This is left to the discretion of the employer, but under HSE guidance it is recommended that a Risk Assessment Review should be scheduled for at least once per year.
Need help creating a risk assessment that will keep your business safe and fulfil your legal responsibilities? Give our expert team a call!