Risk assessments are a legal requirement, and all companies and self-employed people are required to consider health and safety risks in the workplace, with companies with five or more employees, legally obliged to record all findings of risk assessments.
The importance of risk assessments in the workplace go far beyond just a legal requirement though. A good risk assessment will help to prevent accidents and ill health, and also decrease increase costs to businesses through lost output, compensation claims and higher insurance premiums to your business.
As an employer, you’re required to protect your employees, and others, from harm and under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum you must do is:
- Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
Qualitative Risk Assessments
Most risk assessments will fall under this category. When carrying out a qualitative assessment, the assessor will use their personal judgement to identify hazards around the workplace, assess risks and plan control measures. Risks may be classed as high, medium or low-level after the assessor has considered both the probability and severity of the risk in question.
Semi-quantitative risk assessments provide an intermediary level between the textual evaluation of qualitative risk assessment and the numerical evaluation of quantitative risk assessment.
In a Semi – quantitative assessment an evaluation of the risk is calculated by multiplying a pre-determined numerical value applied to both the likelihood of something occurring (ranges from very unlikely (1) to very likely (5) and its severity (minor (1) to very serious (5). This enables you to highlight the higher risk hazards and allows you to prioritise the risks to be able to implement control measures in order to lower the risk value to an acceptable level.
Quantitative risk assessments attempt to calculate probabilities or frequencies of specific event scenarios using nothing but numeric values.. This is so the results can be compared to criteria on what is considered acceptable level of risk. Methods of this include fault tree analysis and event tree analysis.
The 5 steps of a Risk Assessment
1. Identify the hazard
Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards). Think about hazards to health, such as manual handling, use of chemicals and causes of work-related stress and also consider long-term hazards to health (eg high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances) as well as standard safety hazards.
2. Identify the people at risk
The next stage is to consider who is actually at risk from these hazards and this should include all those working on-site, particular groups of workers, visitors, or passers-by.
3. Evaluate the risks and implement suitable control measures
Having identified the hazards, you then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur, ie the level of risk and what to do about it. Risk is a part of everyday life and you are not expected to eliminate all risks. What you must do is make sure you know about the main risks and the things you need to do to manage them responsibly.
4. Record your findings
A written risk assessment provides proof that hazards were evaluated and appropriate action taken to reduce risk. This proof can protect your business from legal liability and may be useful when it comes to raising awareness amongst contractors and employees about the potential risks of a worksite. Any record produced should be simple and focused on controls.
In all workplaces, there will be changes over time, so reviewing on an ongoing basis is not only good practice but can ensure a safe environment and one which shows commitment to staff and training alike.
Here at Midlands Health and Safety Consultancy, we create generic and task specific risk assessments on all tasks identified and completed within the organisation, enabling us to highlight hazards and implement control measures to eliminate/minimise the potential to cause harm.
For further information on the importance of risk assessments and how we can assist you with this or any other health and safety requirement, please contact us here.