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Our Guide to Risk Assessments

If you’re an employer, then you’re most likely familiar with risk assessments. However, if you’re new to the scene or your business is growing, then you may not have a complete understanding of risk assessments.

There are risks in any workplace, whether it be slips, trips and falls in offices or noise, asbestos, and heavy lifting on construction sites. One of the most effective ways of identifying and managing these risks is by completing regular risks assessments.

But what exactly is a risk assessment? How and when should risk assessments be completed? And how do I record a risk assessment? Keep reading for our guide to risk assessments.


What is a Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment is a fundamental part of the risk management process. It’s a key way of identifying the hazards in your workplace and can define exactly which hazards would potentially cause harm to any employees, customers, or visitors to the workplace.

Conducting regular risk assessments can help your business to run smoothly, as it can identify any potential issues and prevent risks from harming employees and visitors to the site.

Risks assessments should consider all aspects of the workspace, including any potential hazards (e.g, fire safety, stress, COVID-19, etc), any organisational factors such as work systems, shift patterns and working from home, and tasks (e.g cleaning with chemicals, maintenance etc).


When Should I Complete a Risk Assessment?

Risk assessments are a legal requirement for any business that has five or more employees - although they should be conducted regardless of the size of the business.

Legally, the results of a risk assessment should be recorded alongside details of employees at risk - for example, employees that are younger, older, disabled, or pregnant.

According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), risks should be assessed whenever new machinery, procedures, or substances are introduced to the workplace, as this can lead to new hazards.

Risk assessments should be reviewed at least every three years, including any time that new hazards may arise. This includes any changes in machinery, design, processes, or whenever there has been an incident or injury as a result of being exposed to a hazard. 


How Do I Complete a Risk Assessment?

Risk assessments involve a variety of steps that should be worked through. The key steps of a risk assessment are identifying hazards and who is at risk, assessing the risks presented, considering how the identified risks are going to be eliminated, and considering the next steps of risk management and prevention.

Firstly, take time to identify any potential hazards that may occur in the workplace. This could be checking out the workplace and liaising with employees. You could ask yourself “What are the main tasks being performed?”, “What does the workplace look like?”, “How is equipment being used?”, “Are there any chemicals being used?”, and “Are there any unsafe work practices right now?”. You could also check out the incident book to see what hazards may have caused harm in the past.

Once you identify a hazard, make a note of who may be harmed by the hazards. Many employers make the mistake of only considering employees and forgetting about contractors or visitors. You should include anybody who may step foot in the workplace. Include extra detail for employees who are pregnant, have disabilities, are young or old, or are untrained or inexperienced.

Then, assess the risks - consider how likely it is that the risks could cause harm. Many people will rate the risk of a number between 1 and 5. If the risk is high, be sure to make a note of safety precautions that may lower the risk. Consider whether the risks can be eliminated, or whether the hazard can be removed at all. If not, then consider how the risks can be controlled and managed to reduce the risk of harm.

Finally, make a note of any further measures - it’s an employer's responsibility to do everything that is reasonably practical to protect people from harm in the workplace. This could involve replacing machinery, adjusting the processes, offering extra training, or preventing access to any recorded hazards. It's always best to get professional advice when completing risk assessments.


How Do I Record a Risk Assessment?

Risk assessments should be recorded, including any significant findings. This is a legal requirement if you have five or more employees. Any risk assessment records should include details of the hazard, how people could be affected by the hazard, and what measures are in place to reduce the risk of being harmed by the hazards.

You can find and download a standard risk assessment template on the HSE website, as well as examples of what should be included. Risk assessments should prove that you’ve thoroughly checked the workplace, that hazards have been effectively dealt with, that precautions are in place to ensure the risk is minimal, and that employees have been involved in the risk assessment process.

If you have identified multiple hazards, ensure that you’ve ordered the hazards in order of importance - with the most serious risks being at the top of the list.