How to use a health and safety risk assessment

Every organisation with 5 or more staff is required by UK law to carry out written health and safety risk assessments covering all significant hazards. The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) defines risk assessment as “a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people.” The purpose is to “weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.”
Risk Assessment

If a company has fewer than 5 employees, there’s no need to write anything down – although it may be wise to consider doing so, especially if you assess your workplace risks as greater or more complex than average.

The 5-step plan HSE guidance suggests the following 5-step approach to conducting a risk assessment:

  1. Identify hazards present in the workplace.
  2. Pinpoint who is at risk from the hazards, whether they are employees, contractors, customers or visitors. Pay particular attention to workers who are particularly vulnerable, such as young people, new recruits and new or expectant mothers.
  3. Evaluate each danger and the likelihood of accidents. Also, identify and evaluate controls that are already in place to reduce risks.
  4. Record all findings on a suitable form.
  5. Review the assessment on a regular basis - and whenever something changes, for example when new equipment is installed, a process changes or an accident happens.
What is a hazard?

Anything that can cause harm. Chemicals, electricity, equipment that uses heat or cutting edges and ladders or other access equipment are obvious examples. But a hazard can be something as simple as an open drawer, an uneven surface or something slippery.

What is risk?

This is defined as the chance, high, low or somewhere in between, of someone being harmed by a hazard, and how severe the harm is likely to be.

Making your assessment work

Identifying, judging and noting risks is, of course, just the beginning. Even the most rigorous assessment is merely a means to an end - pointless unless it leads to a safer, healthier working environment. When it comes to the crunch, every organisation will be judged by how effectively it manages and prevents risk, not by how efficiently it keeps risk assessment notes.

Two main options

As experts in all areas of risk assessment, Phoenix can offer a range of approaches, with two main options:

  1. We carry out the risk assessments for you, completely eliminating any hassle, and removing liability.
  2. You carry out your own risk assessment. If you prefer to work this way, we can offer invaluable support by:

a) providing the appropriate forms

b) training your employees to carry out an effective assessment

c) providing feedback on the completed assessment.

Specialist solutions for specific businesses

We can also provide specialist risk assessments, tailored to a particular business or industry. For example we can provide construction and contracting companies with generic risk assessments plus method statements modifiable to suit specific jobs.

Other specialist risks for which we can provide expert advice and assistance include:

  • Site specific risk assessments and procedures
  • Fire risk assessments: required for all non-domestic premises. They follow a similar 5-step approach, but with a focus on the three elements that can start a fire: heat, fuel and oxygen
  • Hazardous substances: this demands a COSHH risk assessment, but it is important to remember that simply obtaining the safety data sheet is not sufficient to comply with the law
  • Display screens: necessary for all computer users.

Before you can start on and act upon your risk assessments, you require the right health and safety policy and your own health and safety manual. For an informal chat or to arrange a free initial consultation, please feel free to contact the Phoenix team at any time.