Risk assessments: Your best business friend

Risk assessments: Your best business friend
Alastair Barrett
Alastair BarrettWhat No Safety Services Ltd

Posted: Thu 12th Oct 2023

Undertaking risk assessments is non-negotiable and has been the law since 1992. However, there's no need to be overwhelmed!

Start with a walk around your business and look at the tasks you do.

  • Ask yourself: What are the hazards (the things that could cause harm) associated with this task?

  • Ask the same question to your workforce: Remember, consulting your team is important, and will help you spot issues you may otherwise miss.

  • Gather as much information as you can: One day you might be asked to justify your decisions.

A systematic walkthrough

Your journey through risk assessments starts with a systematic walkthrough of your business premises. In this process, shift your focus towards the core tasks that define your business operations.

The crux of this phase lies in asking a fundamental question: what are the potential hazards linked to each task?

A hazard, in this context, embodies any element that holds the capacity to cause harm.

While your perspective as a business owner or manager is invaluable, your workforce's insights are equally indispensable.

Engaging your team members in this assessment not only lets them contribute to a safer work environment but also acts as a collaborative platform for identifying issues that might have slipped your attention.

The significance of gathering comprehensive information like this can't be overstated, as you might find yourself needing to substantiate your decisions at a later stage.

Who will the task affect?

  • Does the task affect employees, contractors, visitors, the public and so on?

  • How possible is it that a physical injury could occur from it?

As you proceed, delve into the complex web of stakeholders. Contemplate who might be directly or indirectly affected by the hazards associated with specific tasks. This could encompass your employees, contractors, visitors or even the general public.

At the same time, evaluate the extent to which a given hazard could potentially lead to physical injuries. This holistic perspective might encompass scenarios like the potential health hazards posed by a dusty environment causing lung-related conditions, or psychological wellbeing concerns tied to stress and depression.

How likely is this hazard to occur?

Then ask, if it did occur, how bad could it be? For example, it might be something which may happen once a year, and result in a cut finger.

Or perhaps it could be something which is likely to occur every day and, if left unattended, could result in life-changing injuries.

At the heart of the risk assessment process lie two pivotal questions:

  • How likely is the identified hazard to materialise?

  • And if it does manifest, how severe could the repercussions be?

This phase delves into the core essence of the risk factor in risk assessment. You're quantifying the probability of an incident occurring and weighing it against the potential impact it might have.

Do you have existing controls in place, and do they remain in place?

Start with eliminating the hazards that you can address. Then work to reduce the ones you can't avoid, such as swapping a bad chemical for a less dangerous one.

If you're happy that your controls are doing their job, great! You can stop your risk assessment at this point, and reassess every year.

If you think you can do more, introduce more controls. Ask yourself: what are my competitors doing? The courts will look to see how you benchmark against other similar businesses, so you should be looking to be the same as, or better than, your rivals.

Communicating and reviewing

You can't just put the risk assessment on the shelf and say "job done". You must tell your workforce about the hazards they face and what you've done to control them.

Review your assessments each year, or whenever a change happens – for example, if new legislation comes in or you have an accident. Investigate the accident, identify the lessons learnt, and create a new way of working.

Creating risk assessments is one of the main things you can do to improve safety within your business. As you navigate them, bear in mind that you aren't simply fulfilling a legal mandate – you're committing to a safer and more responsible business environment.

Embrace the journey with the understanding that the more proactive and comprehensive your approach, the more effectively you're fortifying your business against potential hazards and uncertainties.

Relevant resources

Alastair Barrett
Alastair BarrettWhat No Safety Services Ltd

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