Carrying out a proper risk assessment of workplace hazards is a legal requirement for all UK employers. It is an important measure to take, as it helps ensure the safety of employees and avoid unnecessary accidents.
A successful risk assessment can be carried out by following a number of easy steps.
1.) Identify workplace hazards
Look around the workplace for any obvious hazards, and ask staff if they are aware of any that are less obvious. These may be as simple as electrical cables, wiring and moveable chairs, trolleys etc., or more specific to the workplace environment, eg. chemicals and powerful machinery in industrial environments. Hazardous machinery may come with a manual detailing any specific hazards, which can be taken as a starting point.
2.) Identify what the risk is, and who is at risk of harm
Think specifically about what type of harm might be cause by any hazards, eg. burns or shocks from electrical equipment, or crushing injury from heavy machinery. Take note of which groups of workers are at risk of such harm- all employees may be at risk of harm from hazards such as falling equipment on construction sites, whilst only electricial engineers will be at serious risk of harm from many electrical energy sources.
3.) Decide how big any risks of harm are, and whether any measures can be put in place to minimise these
Consider both the magnitude of harm likely to be caused if a worker was to suffer injury from workplace hazards- this can range from minor injuries such as grazes or burns to danger of death- and the likelihood of this harm occurring. Think about any measures which may already be in place, and whether these amount to taking all reasonable precautions to prevent injury (the legal duty of an employer under UK law). If they do not, identify further steps that can be taken to minimise or eliminate risk.
4.) Make a record of this assessment, and put any measures into practice
Particularly with larger workforces, writing down the results of a risk assessment and making sure that these are available to employees can be useful. Inform employees of the risks identified, and of the measures you have identified to minimise these which they should put into practice. Specialised training courses in risk reduction are available, which are highly recommended for many hazardous workplaces, such as industrial environments.
5.) Carry out a regular review of risks and risk prevention measures, and update following any changes
This should be carried out at least yearly, according to most recommendations for good practice. It should include any additional hazards introduced by new machinery or other workplace changes since the last risk assessment. If any significant changes take place before a year has passed, a new risk assessment should be carried out straight away to ensure that employees are adequately protected against additional risk.
The steps above provide a general guideline for risk assessments in most workplace environments. However, in particularly dangerous manufacturing, construction or industrial workplaces, employers may have to take additional steps to ensure that risk assessment and management is sufficient. Doing so is the duty of employers under UK law, and is an essential part of safe systems of work, protecting both employers and employees.
Ted Boynton (BSc Hons. NEBOSH) is the general manager of Lockout Tagout Safety Ltd., a company based in industrial Teesside UK, which is a popular provider of quality workplace safety equipment to UK and world markets. Go now to http://www.lockout-tagout.co.uk for further news and safety tips including expert advice on choosing safety products, or to browse our full range of products..
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