Risk assessments in the workplace are essential as they form a key part of occupational health and safety. When carried out properly, risk assessments can reduce the rate of injuries and accidents in the workplace and create a safer environment for everyone.
Whether you work in a high or low-risk environment, every workplace has hazards that could cause injuries or ill-health. This is why conducting a risk assessment is a legal requirement, regardless of which sector you work in. You wouldn’t want to take risks with health and safety at home, so why do it at work?
But conducting risk assessments at work isn’t always an easy task. Depending on where you work, there could be many different factors that you need to consider. We’re going to break down how to do a risk assessment in our five-step guide.
Step 1: Identify potential hazards
A hazard is anything that could cause harm in the workplace. This is an extremely important step as it requires employers to methodically examine every aspect of their working environment. Even if something seems unlikely to cause harm, if there’s a chance it could happen, then it’s a hazard.
Here are some common classifications of workplace hazards:
- Physical – moving and positioning, lifting heavy objects, ensuring good posture while at work, slipping or tripping over, etc
- Biological – Infectious diseases faced by care staff and healthcare workers
- Chemical – Aerosols or strong cleaning fluids
- Mental or psychological – long shifts, excess workload, isolated employees,
Within these classifications, there will be a huge range of specific circumstances where employee safety may be at risk. This step is all about identifying those potential situations and making sure you don’t let any slip through the net.
Step 2: Identify who is at risk
For this stage, you will need to consider who is at risk in your working environment. Do you have elderly employees who might be more susceptible to certain hazards? Or perhaps junior team members who are still on probation and might accidentally harm themselves or those around them?
As well as considering your staff, you must also extend this process to include guests, visitors, clients and third-party contractors. You will need to review how often you have people on your site or in your workplace and who might be at risk.
For example, supermarket staff face the risk of confrontation or violence from customers and intruders, particularly in the evenings. If you have team members who are working night shifts, you must consider that they will be at higher risk than those who work during the day.
Step 3: Once you have assessed the risk, take action
Knowing how to identify hazards in the workplace is only half of the job – you’ve actually got to prevent them too. Of course, it’s impossible for employers to eliminate each and every risk in the workplace. And even if everything is done correctly and the risk has been reduced, there is still a chance that the hazard could cause harm.
They will need to evaluate which risks are higher than others, and then put actions into place to reduce those risks. It’s up to the employer to decide which risks they view as high, medium or low. By following these procedures and putting effective measures into place, employers can drastically reduce the chances of these hazards causing injuries or ill-health.
Step 4: Record the findings
To prove that the risk assessment was carried out, employers should record the findings of their risk assessment in writing. The risk assessment should include the following:
- Details of potential hazards
- Identification of who is at risk of these hazards
- Actions taken to reduce the risks
This risk assessment will act as a working document and should be easily accessible for all staff. At a later date, perhaps when you employ more staff or begin providing a new service, you can use the risk assessment as a review of your working practices.
Step 5: Regularly review risk assessments
Risk assessments are not a one-time task. That is because many working environments are versatile and naturally evolving. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how quickly our working environments can change and that we need to be able to react accordingly.
Whether you are sending your team members to work from home or bringing them back to the office, risk assessments need to be regularly reviewed. This is to make sure that safe working practices continue, regardless of where you are based.
First aid and risk assessments in first aid
First aid in the workplace is essential because it helps to ensure the safety of employees in case they have a sudden injury or illness at work. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations require employers to make sure there is adequate equipment, facilities and personnel to provide first aid at work.
An integral part of your risk assessment is a review of your first aid needs. This review should be updated every 12 months. Your first-aid needs will be a reflection of the hazards in your workplace that you have identified in the risk assessment.
For example, if a hazard you have identified is that your employees regularly work with chemicals, then having a first aid kit with equipment to deal with chemical-related injuries would be essential. It would also be important to make sure that your employees have the training required to administer first aid for these types of injuries.
You should be careful to consider any other risks that come with the nature of the work you do. As well as industry-specific hazards, this also includes general workplace injuries, such as slips and falls. If you have a large workforce, then you need to make sure you have enough qualified first-aiders on site. If multiple employees get injured at once, having a single first-aider wouldn’t be enough!
Is your risk assessment up to date?
With lockdown restrictions easing and things slowly starting to return to normal (fingers crossed), now is the time to start thinking about risk assessments. Health and safety at work have never been more important. Working in a post-coronavirus environment means identifying new potential hazards and putting actions into place to keep everyone safe.
Whether that means additional training on hygiene and cleanliness or a regular stock of PPE, there are more things to consider now than ever before. Making sure a workplace is a safe place will be instrumental in encouraging employees to return to work in a positive and productive manner.
Here at Vital Workplace Training, we can help you to conduct a thorough and extensive risk assessment. We are up to date with the new COVID-19 health and safety regulations, which means we can also minimise the risk of transmitting diseases in your workplace. To find out more about our training courses and how we can help you, feel free to get in touch with us today.