A risk assessment is an organised process that involves identifying and analysing hazards within the workplace in order to control the possible repercussions. The goal is to eliminate as many associated risks as possible by implementing certain measures to reduce risks. It ensures the health and safety of employees and in most cases, is a legal requirement for employers.
Why are risk assessments important?
Firstly, in most instances, risk assessments are a legal requirement for employers to document these wherever there are 5 or more employees working for said company. These documents serve as the primary management tool in regard to effective and efficient risk management. However, the main purpose is to identify health and safety hazards, evaluate the risks, and ensure the sustainability of control measures taken to reduce risks as much as possible. If you are the employer, then it ultimately is your responsibility to ensure these assessments are carried out correctly, or to hire appropriate staff with the necessary knowledge to prepare these on your company's behalf.
Before completing a risk assessment, its very important to define some relevant keywords:
- Accident: An incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.
- Risk: This is the possibility or likelihood of an occurrence that has negative impacts on employee health, including injury, damage, loss, or ill health resulting from a hazard.
- Hazard: This can be defined as a factor or occurrence in the workplace that has the potential to cause harm to employees.
Although the types of risk assessments may vary, typically the associated keywords will stay the same and the completion process for most will be similar. There are online resources available to get certified training completed regarding the principles of risk assessments. It is recommended to undergo one of these courses in preparation for these, particularly if you are the named risk assessor for your company.
What are the different types of risk assessments?
Depending on the industry your business resides in, you may have to prepare several different assessments based on the activities your employees undergo whilst at work. Remember that many of these are legal requirements if they do apply to your operations but some of the more commonplace risk assessments include:
Manual handling risk assessment:
These should be conducted in the workplace where employees may be at risk from hazards involved in the need to lift, carry or load goods.
Display screen equipment (DSE) risk assessment:
These are required for employees that use computers, laptops, or similar technologies to complete their activities.
Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) risk assessment:
This assessment is necessary specifically when a company deals in or handles dangerous or hazardous substances or chemicals and has strict legal requirements that must be adhered to in order to protect employees from exposure to them. Further detail on the specifics of this assessment can be read on the Alcumus website.
Fire risk assessments:
These are required for all workplaces regardless of industry. These safety management procedures must be established to prepare employees for incidents of fire.
Dynamic risk assessment:
When the process of identifying hazards and assessing risks happens in continuously changing circumstances or environments, meaning judgements on the operational impacts on risks changed significantly on a regular basis and therefore further reviews must be taken to account for said changes.
Following on from this, there are some additional steps your company should undertake alongside your risk assessments. The first of these is called a safety data sheet which is designed to contain all the information regarding chemical substances your workplace may come into contact with. These sheets are required by law for each hazardous product within your organisation, as set out by the registration, evaluation, authorisation, and restriction of chemicals (REACH) regulation. This regulation is relevant to all businesses that trade within the European Union and therefore mandatory. It is worth noting that this document should only be used alongside a COHSS risk assessment but doesn't constitute an assessment alone, so understanding the differences and how they go hand in hand is essential.
Another additional factor some industries may consider is risk assessment method statements (RAMS) but this is entirely dependent on the work being done and the employer. This is a process that is more prominent within the construction industry as it details the hazards to employees followed by step-by-step procedures on the best way to complete the work whilst keeping the risks at a minimum. These are designed to support the decision-making process along the way and eliminate misunderstandings of protocols. However, there is no legal requirement to complete these documents unlike the other risk assessment methods mentioned.
Steps to complete a risk assessment
To sum up, the information above we have compiled a shortlist of steps that should be taken when completing risk assessments. Health and Safety England recommends a five-step process to follow to ensure the assessment is comprehensive. These steps are:
- Identify potential hazards
- Identify employees at risk of said hazards
- Evaluate severity and likelihood of risk to establish suitable precautions
- Implementing control measures and documenting findings
- Review assessment and review where necessary
Remembering this step-by-step process is sure to maintain your health and safety procedures when you have finished your risk assessment.
How we can help
Zigaflows' real-time reporting functionality makes risk assessments a breeze, by having all your documents in one easy to navigate, centralised location among all your colleagues. This ensures the relevant information is easy to access along the entire process, and that any changes or reviews can be reflected upon immediately For all of your business process needs, find out how we can help by booking a demo with us today.