How to Control Hazards in Your Workplace

risk assessment

A risk assessment is needed to identify potential dangers in your workplace and analyse possible consequences when such danger occurs. According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, it is good to remember that “risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.” But even you if are already taking steps to protect your employees, completing a simple risk assessment will help you see whether you have covered all the grounds.

Why should businesses assess risks?

Ensuring the health and safety of your business you must control the risks in your workplace. A risk assessment is just a careful examination of what could harm people in your work environment, so that you can check whether you have taken the right precautions. To do this you need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. According to RAF Marham Health and Safety, “Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.”

There are a number of benefits of a proper risk assessment: less sick leave; technical competence and objectivity, as well compliance with the law and regulations. These help a business go beyond obligatory requirements, boosting their staff’s productivity, as well as profits, while reducing legal costs associated with health and safety let-downs.

What types of risk assessments are there?

For some risks, regulations require specific control measures. Your assessment can guide you to look at certain risks and any particular control measures in more detail. These control measures do not have to be assessed separately but can be considered as part of your overall risk assessment.

Risk assessments vary in detail and approaches. Risk assessment is something you are required by law to carry out in the UK. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to have a written risk assessment.

Many governmental recourses provide very detailed examples of different kinds of risk assessments. But let’s see what are the main differences between so-called Qualitative and Quantitative approaches.

If you are looking for a more basic risk assessment then consider using the qualitative approach, since it basically rates your risks from Low to High. A good thing to remember is that this approach can be subjective and applied only in rather low-risk businesses.

Quantitative approach provides more detailed analysis of the risks and their outcomes, but usually requires more work, effort and time. Its main characteristic is that it allocates a certain value to each risk – say on a scale from 1 to 10, using a straightforward equation, described further down. More on the differences of these two methods is available on SANS Technology Institute’s website. 

Which companies have to assess risks?

Various legal regulations, industry frameworks and guidelines and, of course, common sense require companies to conduct systematic risk assessments. The gravity of these risk assessments should be proportional to the size, complexity, and characteristic industry risk for your business.

You are required to complete an appropriate and necessary risk assessment in order to help you identify the actions you need to take to exclude hazards or control risk. The risk assessment must include risks to anyone who may be harmed whether or not they are employees.

There are some specific issues, which require you to do a risk assessment. These include, using substances hazardous to health (chemicals), levels of noise, manual handling, using equipment and accidents related to fire.

Especially the organisations where heavy machinery is operated would benefit greatly from an appropriate review of hazards and associated risks.

Practical steps to risk assessment

Risk assessment is the process where you: identify hazards and evaluate the risk associated with them.

SecureState provides a very simple formula for reviewing your potential risks:

MANAGED RISK = (VULNARABILTY LEVEL x THREAT) – CONTROL MEASERS

Keep these 5 simple steps in mind:

Agree on clear goal

  • Classify your limitations, risks and opportunities
  • Evaluate risks and define actions for the management to be dispersed among the staff
  • List risks in order of priority and allocate necessary resources

For more guidance on dangers related to operating heavy machinery can be found on this risk assessment page.

  • Identify the applicable standards and regulations
  • Define the machine’s limits
  • Identify all the risks in each of the machine’s lifecycle phases
  • Estimate and assess the risk
  • Recommend an approach for reducing risk

Compare these to the University of Cambridge Risk Management outline:

The identification of all workplace hazards

  • The identification of all people who may be exposed to the hazards
  • The evaluation of the significant risks to which employees, students and others are exposed
  • The recognition of the likelihood of foreseeable accidents, injuries or near misses occurring
  • The selection of realistic and practical precautions and control measures

A comprehensive two-page Word document which would help you to quickly evaluate your risks is available to download from HSE’s website, as well as on IOSH’s (via search facility).

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