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Risk assessments: What you need to know

by constructaquote - 1 June 2016


Every business faces an element of risk in their daily running – be it a slip, trip or fall or causing accidental damage to your customers property; some can’t be avoided, but many can.

Taking action to reduce risk can protect your business and may even help to bring your insurance premiums down.

A risk assessment is an important step in protecting your workers and your business, as well as complying with the law. Risk management isn’t about creating mountains of unnecessary paperwork; it is about taking sensible steps in ensuring the safety of your workplace and reducing your insurance liability.

Even if you’ve already taken measures to protect staff, a risk assessment will tell you if more action is needed.

Many potential problems can be solved before they ever have a chance to happen by introducing simple measures into the daily operation of your business; including, making supplies readily available to clean up spills promptly, safely tidying away exposed electrical cables and even training your employees to recognise risks and hazards at work.

This guide will help you undertake a risk assessment – something you need to do to keep your staff safe and comply with the law.

The Law

Employers have a legal obligation to protect their health and safety and that of their workforce. The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as ‘reasonably practicable’.

Getting started

The first step in this process is a full inspection of the workplace. You may need to break the task down into smaller sections if you have a large business or different activities. Identifying hazards one by one as you inspect the workplace is the first step in your risk assessment and it needs to be conducted systematically.

Identifying hazards

It is easy to accidentally overlook some of the safety hazards in your workplace. Here are some steps to help you avoid this:

  • Be observant – most hazards can be found simply by walking around your workplace and looking for obstacles, changes in level, sharp edges, machinery, objects that could fall from a height and so on. Thinking about ‘what if…’ can help you identify hazards that may not be immediately obvious.
  • Asking your colleagues and employees is a useful way to identify dangers which are not immediately obvious to you, especially if people are doing different kinds of work.
  • Manufacturers’ instructions or data sheets for machines and products will often point out potential health and safety issues.
  • Look at previous safety records and your accident book to identify common hazards and issues that have occurred in the past.
  • Think about long term issues, not just immediate hazards you can see, such as access to noise or pollution which could cause long-term hearing damage.
  • For some hazards there are particular control measures required by law. An example of this is construction industry regulations dealing with asbestos.
  • Some hazards are dependent on the type of work you are doing, for example, working at height or lifting heavy objects – make sure you include these.

How big is the risk?

After you’ve identified the hazards in the workplace, the next step is to rank the risk of their likelihood. By doing this your business can concentrate on mitigating the real risks – those that are most likely to cause harm.

And finally…

The final stage of your risk assessment, once these hazards have been identified, is to decide what measures can be put in place to control them.

By recording your findings on a risk assessment template (which the Health and Safety Executive provide) you can ensure your employee’s safety isn’t being put at risk.

Reducing the risk of accidents in the workplace, having a good safety record and a well documented risk assessment can help reduce incidents and accidents meaning you face far fewer claims – and no claims could possibly mean your insurance premiums are not as high as those businesses who disregard health and safety in the workplace.

If you have fewer than five employees you are not legally required to write down your findings, but even so, it may prove useful to keep records as your business can grow.

Getting further information

If you are unsure about your safety management procedure, there is a huge amount of information available to help.

Further information about legal requirements and standards can be found on the HSE’s website and also in their publications; specifically the Health and Safety Toolbox.

To see more of our business related blogs, check out blog.constructaquote.com.