How to Carry Out a Health & Safety Risk Assessment

Fiona Burns

Fiona Burns

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25 Feb 2020

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Risk assessments are an essential part of securing the health & safety of your employees.

As well as being a legal obligation under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, they help to reduce illnesses and injury around the work environment.

For urgent enquires about our risk assessments services and how you can stay on the right side of the law, contact a Croner expert on 0808 145 3380.

This piece focuses on how to carry out a risk assessment. In it, we’ll highlight the steps needed to undertake a risk assessment as well as the expected duration and frequency.

 

How many steps are there to a risk assessment?

To learn how to assess the risks in your workplace, you’ll need to be familiar with the five main steps. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the body responsible for enforcing this regulation.

They require you to:

  1. Identify hazards.
  2. Assess the risks.
  3. Control the risks.
  4. Record findings.
  5. Review existing measures.

 

How to complete a risk assessment

To meet your obligations under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, it’s important to know how to do a health & safety risk assessment.

We’ll expand on the steps highlighted above to show the requirements at every stage of the process.

How to carry out a risk assessment is a complex and important process. So, you should refer to the following steps carefully—and seek further help when necessary.

 

Step 1. Identifying hazards

The first thing you’re required to do is to look around the workplace and identify any hazards that you think can cause harm.

You must consider:

  • Existing safe and unsafe working practices.
  • The use of plant and equipment (including the people using it).
  • Exposure to chemicals and substances.
  • The current state of the working environment.

You can refer to records of previous accidents and ill health that occurred in the workplace to identify less obvious risks.

As well as considerations for frequent undertakings such as general cleaning, consider infrequent activities such as the maintenance of machines, changes to work practices, etc.

You should also remember to speak to your employees about the issues they’re experiencing. They’re in the best position to recognise hazardous areas in the work process.

 

Step 2. Assessing the risks

After identifying the possible risks, you’ll then need to consider the people that may be potentially exposed to these hazards.

At this stage, you’ll need to consider:

  • Who’s at risk of harm and how.
  • Any existing measures in place to control these risks.
  • Further action necessary to control risks.
  • Who’ll be responsible for carrying out this action?
  • When you’ll need to implement the action by.

During this stage, you will also need to think about specific requirements for young workers, expectant mothers and people with disabilities.

Apart from your full-time employees, you’ll also need to make considerations for anyone accessing the work environment including cleaners, contractors, maintenance workers and visitors.

 

Step 3. Controlling the risks

According to the law, you must take ‘reasonable’ steps to protect your staff from harm.

This step highlights the existing actions to control the risks in the workplace. It requires you to think about the measures already in place and ask yourself two main questions.

  1. Can you eliminate hazards all together?
  2. And if not, how you can control them to minimise risks?

If you find the answers to these questions require further risk controls, you may consider:

  • Redesigning the job role.
  • Replacing materials, machinery or the work process.
  • Reorganising work duties to reduce exposure to hazardous substances and dangerous machinery.
  • Introducing practical measures needed to ensure the safety of your staff.
  • Providing relevant employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and enforcing its use when necessary.

It’s worth remembering, while you aren’t expected to eliminate all risks, you must do everything that’s ‘reasonably possible’ to protect your staff from harm. This mean, the level of the risk must match the measures needed to control said risk.

 

Step 4: Recording your findings

If you employ five or more employees, you must record (in writing) any significant findings from your risk assessment.

This document serves as proof (when requested) that you carried out a risk assessment and took steps to reduce or eliminate risks around the workplace.

According to the legislation under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the record should include:

  • Any hazards identified.
  • Which employees are at risk of harm and how?
  • The steps you’ve taken to control these rises.

Although not required, those with fewer than five employees can still record the finding from the risk assessment for their records.

 

Step 5: Reviewing control measures

The last step in the process requires you to review the measures in place to ensure they’re working as expected regularly. By familiarising yourself with how to conclude a risk assessment, you’ll be able to ensure that all controls in place are working as they should.

The conclusion should highlight the risks identified, the control measures in place (new or existing) as well as any identified risks without suitable control measures to remove or reduce them.

Although there’s no wording relating to the frequency of the health & safety assessment, you must carry them out within ‘reasonable’ intervals. Or if:

  • They’ve become obsolete or ineffective.
  • There are changes in the workplace or work process that could lead to new risks (including changes to staff, the work environment or equipment).

You should also consider a review if a staff member identifies any problems with their work or the work process.

 

How long does a risk assessment take?

The duration of your risk assessment will depend on a variety of considerations including the size of your business, the industry you’re in, the number of people you employ, and the equipment used.

There’re no guidelines indicating how long the entire process should take. You should, however, ensure that you’ve met your obligations according to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

 

How to write a risk assessment report

After gathering information from the steps above, you’ll need to know how to prepare a risk assessment report.

The most important thing to remember at this point is to keep the report simple and easy to follow.

The assessment aims to provide you with a reliable to refer to when reviewing or updating your risk assessment. So, it should:

  • Be clear, concise and cover all relevant aspects of the assessment.
  • Include details of the risks you identified at the start of the assessment.
  • Identified the employees that are at risk.
  • Include details about what you’re already doing to control the risks identified.
  • Have an overview of further control measures in place to ensure the safety of your staff.
  • Identify who’ll action these measures and when it’s needed by.

While there are various templates available online, you might be better of creating one that’s specific to your business.

If you do, it should be able to show that you:

  • Carried out a proper check and identified hazards.
  • Consulted with employees through the process.
  • Resolved major hazards.
  • Put in control measures for low and manageable risks.
  • Anticipated changes to the workplace or process.

Remember to rank risks in order of importance. There’s no specific guideline on this so you’ll have to use common sense.

You can work your way down from hazards that can cause death or serious injuries to less serious ones.

After ranking these risks, you can then make suggestions for long-term control measures that you can use to resolve any major hazards identified in the process.

 

How to calculate your risk assessment score

The first step to calculating your risk assessment score is to organise each risk in order of importance.

The scoring system is essential to help you prioritise the level of importance of each risk identified in the assessment procedure. It also helps to determine if it’s safe for your staff to continue the work or not.

The overall score depends on the probability of an incident occurring and the potential impact it can have to your staff or the work process.

So, for example, although the possibility of group exposure to hazardous substances may be rare, it can have a severe impact on them.

You’ll need to compare the probability versus the impact it may have to rank and prioritise the risks identified in the assessment. To do this, you’ll need to know how to quantify the risks in a risk assessment.

Ideally, you’ll carry out the quantification process after the assessment but before you put control measures in place. The process evaluates the risks identified in earlier steps to create data used to priorities the implementation of control measures.

Because of the variety of scoring systems available online, it’s important to consider all options to decide on the one best suited for your organisation.

However, the most popular approach is the risk assessment matrix. With it, you can assign scores to each risk by organising them according to the likelihood of it causing harm and the potential severity of said harm.

It ranks the severity (low, medium and high) by the probability (rare, possible, unlikely) of it causing an accident.

By quantifying the risks identified, you can make considerations relating to costs, timeframe, resources, etc. And using the scores provided, you can then determine which risks to address first.

 

Expert advice

Contact us today for further information or if you have a query about any of the topics mentioned in the piece. You can speak to a Croner health & safety expert on 0808 145 3380.

About the Author

Fiona Burns

Fiona Burns has practical experience in Health & Safety and Risk Management having worked for major insurer prior to joining Croner.

She has gained extensive helpline experience offering competent advice and timely support to large number of clients, in various industries and at all levels.  Completed the NEBOSH General Certificate, also passed NEBOSH Environmental Diploma Unit A, (IOSH Managing Environmental responsibilities). NEBOSH Fire and Risk Management Certificate, FPA Advance Fire Training, NCRQ Diploma – Distinction currently completing IPD and volunteering for Community project in Atherstone also as a Dementia support worker with CWPT.

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Fiona Burns

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