As part of handling the health and safety of your organisation, you need to regulate the risks in your workplace. To do this, you need to consider what may harm people and also decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to avoid that harm. This is called risk assessment.

A risk assessment is not about creating a large number of documents, but instead about identifying sensible steps to manage the dangers in your office. You are probably already taking measures to protect your staff. However, your risk assessment will help you determine whether you have covered all that you require.

Think about how accidents, as well as ill health, could take place and also focus on real dangers – those that are most likely and which will trigger the most injury.

For some threats, various other guidelines need specific control procedures. Your assessment can help you determine whether you need to look at particular risks and specific control measures in more detail. These control actions need not be assessed individually but can be thought about as part of, or expansion of, your overall risk analysis.

The following are the ways to assess risks in your workplace:

1. Identify the hazards

Among the most vital elements of your risk assessment, properly identifying the prospective threats in your workplace is considered as one of the most important. An excellent way to begin is to walk around your workplace and think about any risks.

When you work in a particular place daily, it is easy to overlook some dangers. So here are some pointers to help you identify the ones that matter:

  • Remember to think about long-term dangers to health (e.g. loud sound or exposure to dangerous materials)
  • Check manufacturers’ directions or data sheets for chemicals and devices as they can be beneficial in determining the threats
  • Think about your accident and also ill-health documents – these often help to recognise the less obvious risks
  • Take into account the non-routine operations (e.g. maintenance, cleaning procedures or modifications in production cycles)

There are some dangers with a known risk of harm. For example, working at height, working with machinery, chemicals and asbestos. There may be other risks that are relevant to your business depending on the type of job you do.

2. Decide who may be harmed and how

Think how staff members (or others who might be present such as service providers or site visitors) may be harmed. Ask your workers what they think the risks are, as they may discover points that are not obvious to you and also might have some valuable suggestions on exactly how to control the dangers.

For every threat you need to be clear about who might be hurt. It will help you to determine the best means of controlling the danger. That doesn’t imply listing everyone by name, but instead identifying groups of individuals (e.g.’ individuals working in the storage place’ or ‘passers-by’).

Keep in mind:

  • Some employees have particular needs. For example, new and young employees, migrant workers, pregnant mothers, people with impairments, temporary employees, professionals, homeworkers as well as only employees.
  • Think of people that may not be in the office regularly, such as visitors, professionals and maintenance workers.
  • Take members of the public into account, if your activities can injure them.
  • If you share your workplace with one more organisation, think about how your work influences others and how their work impacts you and your workers. Speak with each other and also ensure controls are in place.
  • Ask your employees if there are any individuals you may have missed out.
3. Evaluate the hazards and decide on precautions

After recognising the threats, you need to decide how likely it is that harm may happen; i.e. the degree of risk and what to do regarding it. Danger is a part of day-to-day life. What you need to do is make sure you learn about the main threats and also how to manage them responsibly.

Some practical steps you could take consist of:

  • attempting a less risky choice
  • preventing access to the dangers
  • offering welfare facilities such as first aid and also washing facilities
  • involving and getting in touch with workers
  • organising jobs to reduce exposure to the threat
  • issuing protective devices

It does not cost a lot to improve health and safety. For example, placing a mirror on a dangerous corner to avoid car accidents is a low-cost precaution taking into consideration the uncertainties. Failure to take easy preventative measures can cost you a lot if an accident does happen.

If you control a variety of workplaces having similar activities, you can produce a ‘model’ risk assessment showing the common threats as well as risks connected with these tasks.

4. Record your significant conclusions

Make a record of your substantial findings – the dangers, how they may hurt individuals and how you can regulate the threats. 

A risk analysis should be ‘suitable and sufficient’, i.e. it must show that:

  • your employees were included in the decision process
  • a proper check was made
  • you asked who may be affected
  • you took care of all the significant threats, taking into consideration the number of people that may be involved
  • the safety measures are practical, and the remaining danger is reduced

Where the nature of your job changes frequently or the workplace keeps developing (e.g. a construction site), or where your workers move from place to site, you may have to focus your risk assessment on a more on a variety of risks that can be anticipated.

If your risk assessment leads to many hazards, you need to put them in order of importance and also deal with the most severe dangers first.

Find long-term solutions for the risks with the most significant effects, along with those risks which lead to mishaps or ill health. Also, you should check if there are improvements that can be carried out quickly, even for a short time.

Keep in mind, higher the risk the more robust and trustworthy the control procedures will require to be.

5. Evaluate your risk assessment and update if required

Some work environments remain the same. Sooner or later, you will get brand new equipment, materials and methods that may lead to new risks. Therefore, it makes sense to check what you are doing on a continuous basis. Take a look at your risk assessment again and also ask yourself:

  • Have there been any major changes?
  • Are there any improvements you still need to make?
  • Have your employees spotted any problem?
  • Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses?

Make sure your risk assessment is always up to date.

Some organisations, where one is confident that they will understand what is required, can do the evaluation themselves. You don’t need to be a health and safety professional.

When thinking about your risk assessment, keep in mind that danger is anything that might lead to damage, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer etc.