Risk Assessments

Why do we need them?

Posted on: 09/09/2015   By: Lee Rance

The simple answer is they are there to protect us from harm at work.

The basic definition of a risk assessment is ‘a systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a projected activity or undertaking.’ They are basically there to identify what can cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm.

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Although risk assessments can take different forms to cover different areas, the basic principles are the same:

  • Identifying what can harm people in your workplace
  • Identifying who might be harmed and how
  • Evaluating the risks and deciding on the appropriate controls, taking into account the controls you already have in place
  • Recording your risk assessment
  • Reviewing and updating your assessment

In order to assess risks it is important to be aware of the distinction between hazard and risk.

  • Hazard: Anything with the potential to cause harm, electricity, hazardous substances and noise are examples of typical hazards.
  • Risk: The likelihood that damage, loss or injury will be caused by a hazard and how severe the outcome may be.

There are certain legal duties and obligations that require employers to carry out risk assessments in the workplace. These legal obligations are found in Section 3 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. There are also other items of legislation that require specific assessments. These include:

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – Assessing whether adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place.
  • COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002) – Assessing hazardous substances and the processes involved with those substances.
  • The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 – Assessing any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force.
  • The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012 – Before starting any work that is likely to disturb asbestos, a risk assessment must be prepared by the employer.
  • The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 – Assessing the risk associated with work stations.

Once you have identified the potential risks, the following measures should be followed.

  1. Can the risk be avoided or eliminated?
  2. Can the risks be contained at source?
  3. Can the work be adapted to suit the individual? e.g. layout of workplace, choice of equipment and methods of working
  4. Can engineering or technical controls be used?
  5. Information, instruction and training, and providing personal protective equipment.

No. 5 should only be considered as a last resort once all the other options have been looked at.

Vulnerable groups such as young people and pregnant workers often require extra controls to protect them from hazards at work.

Risk assessments need to be carried out to satisfy the requirements of legislation and are a vital tool in implementing health and safety management. But the most important reason for carrying out a risk assessment is to ensure the health and safety of employees.

Have all your health and safety risks been identified and assessed? Or do you just need advice on how to do them yourself, then give us a call on 01908 632418 or send us an email.

Until next time.

Lee Rance.