As an employer or Health and Safety manager, you are required by law to complete a risk assessment. This article will guide you through the risk assessment process.
You can read the full article or jump ahead to a relevant section:
1. How to identify workplace hazards
The first step is to find the potential risks at your factory or warehouse. Here are our top tips for identifying workplace hazards.
Assess your facility
To assess the risk at your facility, it is important to observe how your employees, site vehicles, machinery and storage systems interact with each other. Dedicate time to go through your facility and look for hazards or any unsafe working conditions.
Useful tools for identifying hazards include:
- The Health And Safety Executive's health and safety toolbox, which covers the most common workplace hazards.
- The Hidden Cost safety resource pack, which contains a safety inspection checklist to help you identify potential hazards and ensure preventative safety measures are in place.
Talk to your employees
Not every hazard can be seen during a walkthrough, especially if it is a result of certain duties that are only undertaken occasionally. It is important to talk to your employees to understand each person’s job and the risks surrounding them. Listen to their concerns and the issues they think need controlling.
Review your old records
For most companies, it is likely that risk assessments have been completed in the past. Reviewing previous risk assessments, as well as old accident records, can highlight any additional hazards that you may have missed.
You may also find some solutions or measures which would be relevant to implement in the present.
Consult the instructions for machinery and equipment
By reviewing the instructions or datasheets for your machinery and equipment – as well as for certain materials and chemicals – you will be able to see what the manufacturers have identified as the potential risks involved with using them. This will allow you to factor these hazards into your risk assessment and find suitable solutions.
Long-term health hazards at work
Not every hazard is immediate, some can cause harm to your workers over a prolonged period. It is worth considering how long-term exposure to these hazards could impact the health of your employees and what can be done to minimise this risk.
Examples of long-term workplace hazards to consider are:
Prolonged exposure to loud noises can impact your employees hearing – so think about how measures like earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce this risk.
If members of your team are operating equipment or machinery that vibrates, the long term effects of these constant, repetitive movements can be serious. Providing protective equipment, introducing safer working practices and increasing education for employees can all help to properly control this hazard.
- Harmful substances
Chemicals, vapours, gases and fumes can all have a harmful impact on employees. Using the correct PPE, effective ventilation and proper safety precautions are the most effective way to minimise the risks of these substances.
2. Assessing who is at risk
Once you’ve identified the potential hazards at your facility, it's important to look at who is at risk.
Who is on-site?
It’s important to understand who exactly could be on your site at any time. This would include employees who work on the shop floor, as well as other workers who may use the area at different times, from cleaners to maintenance teams.
Once you have identified the teams and groups you would expect to be operating within the working environment, then you need to think about the additional traffic and factor them into your risk assessment.
• Delivery drivers
• Members of the public
• Temporary workers
• People sharing your workspace
Some workers may be more vulnerable to workplace hazards.
The groups to consider include:
• Disabled people and people with known medical conditions
• New or inexperienced workers
• People with poor mental health
• People who don’t speak English as a first language
• Pregnant people
While not all of this information will be readily available to you, it is important to inform employees about the need to understand any factors which could create risks.
The HSE has specific information about how to protect vulnerable workers.
3. What can you do to address the hazards in a risk assessment?
When you identify potential risks in the working environment, you need to prevent them from happening and, if that isn’t possible, control the risk to minimise the likelihood that they occur.
Preventing risk simply means removing the threat of risk from daily duties. For example, you may find that wiring or a loose flooring could cause slips, trips and falls. Therefore, you would repair the floor and redivert or enclose the wiring to remove the risk to your employees.
In instances where it is not possible to completely remove a risk – such as the risks involved with working around site vehicles or with harmful substances – you must control the environment and process that surround these risks. For example, effective pedestrian and traffic barriers can minimise the chance of vehicle-related accidents occurring.
Finding solutions to improve health and safety
Once you’ve identified potential hazards, you need to find the right solution. As outlined above, these could be changes to routines and workflows. However, sometimes there can be substantial changes that need to be made such as the installation of safety systems and other protective measures.
When researching effective safety systems, it is crucial to find trusted brands that are approved and certified by the relevant testing bodies such as TÜV Nord. This ensures that they have been tested externally, and independently verified as being fit for purpose.
4. Recording your risk assessment results
You must record the findings of your risk assessment. It is a requirement to have evidence of the potential risks on site, along with further information regarding who is affected and what measures are in place to prevent them.
In order to do this, you will need a risk assessment form.
How to create a risk assessment form
In order to undertake a risk assessment, you’ll need to make sure you have a suitable risk assessment form.
What information should a risk assessment include?
The fields to include are:
• What is the hazard?
• Who does this affect and how does it affect them?
• Can it be controlled and, if so, how?
• Are there any further actions to take?
• Who is responsible for it?
• Date of completion
• Have the actions been completed?
Where possible try to ensure that the hazards listed go in order of importance so the most immediate risks are at the top.
In addition, your risk assessment form should include:
• The name of the person who completed the risk assessment
• The date the assessment was carried out
• The date to review the risk assessment
Where can I find an example risk assessment form?
Safety Culture have example risk assessment forms here.
Learn more about what the law requires from a risk assessment here.
What to do with your risk assessment form once completed
Ideally keep both a written and digital copy of the risk assessment form somewhere easily accessible in the event of an accident or incident.
It is important that employees are able to access the form as the risk assessment helps to communicate the number of risks on-site to everyone around the business, and informs staff of the measures taken to ensure their safety at work.
5. Reviewing your risk assessment
As things change around your facility, from the layout of your workstations to procedures and routines to the number of staff working there, it is important to revisit and update your risk assessment to reflect this.
Why is it important to review your risk assessment?
Any changes that occur can create new risks even if they eliminate others, so it is important to keep risk assessments up to date.
Ensure you discuss any changes with your employees and keep them informed, as they will be in the best position to see how any new updates to your site have impacted working conditions.
A-SAFE are experts in the world of workplace safety and we are on a mission to make workplaces safer and more advanced. If you require any help protecting your facility, contact us on (443) 776 3472 or email us at [email protected]. Alternatively, fill out the below form and a member of our team will be in touch.