As every business owner or manager knows, being an employer brings a lot of responsibilities. One of the biggest is the legal obligation to manage health and safety in the workplace. This involves controlling risks, but before risks can be controlled they have to be identified.
That’s why it’s the clear and unavoidable responsibility of every employer to conduct a health and safety risk assessment; to define the hazards present in the workplace and take action to manage them.
Before you begin your workplace risk assessment you need to be clear about the difference between a hazard and a risk:
- A hazard is anything that may cause harm, from chemicals, electricity or working from ladders to something as simple as a puddle of water or an open drawer.
- A risk is the chance, however high or low, that somebody could be harmed by a hazard. You also need to assess how serious the harm could be./li>
Written down or not?
Businesses with five or more employees are obliged by law to not only conduct a risk assessment, but also to record the findings in a written report.
If you have fewer than five employees you are still required to assess the risks in the workplace, but you don’t need to write the results down. However there’s a strong case for putting the risk assessment in writing even when it’s not strictly necessary. It makes everything clear, focuses minds and makes it much easier to update the assessment when things change.
Keep it clear and simple
Above all, a written assessment doesn’t have to mean getting bogged down in reams of paperwork. A common sense summary of the hazards and risks and what can be reasonably done to control them is all that’s needed. To help you keep your risk assessment short, relevant and focused, here’s a quick checklist of the areas you’ll need to cover:
- Identify each hazard.
- Decide who is at risk and how they can be harmed. Remember that this includes everyone - visitors and contractors as well as employees.
- Evaluate how likely each risk is to cause injury or illness and how serious the harm could be.
- Decide what you’re going to do to minimise each risk.
- Record your findings, the risks you have assessed and the precautions you have decided on. Use a suitable form if possible, rather than just the proverbial ‘back of a fag packet’
- Review your assessment regularly. Update it when something changes – new equipment or changes to a process for example.
DIY or call an expert?
If you are confident you understand the risks in your workplace, you can conduct your own workplace risk assessment without being a health and safety expert. However, if you’re in any doubt about any aspect of the assessment, it’s wise to call in the experts.
To understand why you may need expert advice, you need to consider the worst case scenario. If you ever found yourself in court because of a Health and Safety incident in your workplace, an inaccurate or incomplete risk assessment could have serious repercussions.
Any doubts? Don’t hesitate to contact the Phoenix team for free, no obligation advice.