Preparing a Health and Safety Risk Assessment
What should your risk assessment check list include?
Risk assessments are important for protecting yourself, your workers and colleagues and your business.
A risk assessment checklist will help you to focus on the main hazards in your workplace. In many cases simple actions and fixes can help protect your work force and business without costing a fortune to implement.
There is no one correct way of carrying out a health and safety risk assessment which is probably why so many people over complicate the process. That is not to say that some specialist tasks do not need a more in-depth safety assessment but most jobs are fine with a standard risk assessment checklist.
What should your risk assessment checklist contain?
1. Identify the hazards
A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm. It is easy to overlook hazards if you work in a place every day. As part of your safety assessment it useful to talk to workers and check documents such as accident records, manufacturers instructions and safety data sheets as well as physically checking the area.
2. Identify who could be harmed
All of your risk assessments should be clear about who could be harmed. There is no need to name every individual, but groups of people or job functions are sufficient.
Some people will need special attention such as young workers, new recruits or newly trained staff, people with disabilities and pregnant women. Your health and safety assessment should also include groups of people who may not be in the workplace all the time such as maintenance workers, contractors or members of the public. Make sure you do not overlook these groups when completing your risk assessment check list.
3. Identify how people may be harmed
Risk assessments need to define how people may be harmed. What type of injury or ill health may occur if hazards are not controlled? Do not forget long term risks to health such as exposure to harmful chemicals, dust or noise
4. Evaluate the hazards and decide how you will reduce or eliminate them
There are two basic questions you need to ask for each hazard identified in your risk assessments.
a) Can the hazard be removed totally? If not then
b) How can the hazard be controlled to minimize risk of harm?
When identifying risk control measures it is important to work through the hierarchy following:
• Elimination. Remove of the risk altogether
• Substitution. Try a less risky option
• Physical Controls. Prevent access to the hazard
• Organisational Controls. Reorganise work to reduce exposure
• Personal protective equipment. Provide safety clothing and items
• Welfare facilities. Provide first aid or wash facilities and the time to use them
5. Record and implement your results
Write down your findings on your risk assessment checklist. Keep things simple, there is no need to write essays. Each improvement you list should have an expected completion date.
Some risks are easy to control and can be implemented in a short period. Others may take some planning, preparation and finance and will need to be implemented over a longer period.
Prioritise the risks you have identified and sign them off as they are completed. Even where controls are already in place, leave these hazards on your risk assessment checklist so you can show they have been taken into consideration.
Sign your checklist and plan a date for reviewing it. Health and safety risk assessments are live working documents and should be reviewed on a regular basis or when there is a change to the task