Risk assessing: art or just something simple?

words: Simon Bloxham

I know this will have happened to you – you ask a question about a health and safety issue to the inspector or your consultant and their reply is “You need to risk assess it”. Fat lot of good that is if you don’t know where to start.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.

When it boils down to it, the law is quite clear – you need risk assessments for those things at work that could be a problem to you, your staff and anyone else that might be affected by what you do. These could be for work equipment, such as trolleys and tools, or for work you carry out, such as preparing the deceased for burial, moving and handling stone monuments or driving safely.

Is there an art to doing a risk assessment?

No, definitely not. My advice would be keep it simple – just start by looking at those things you know are risky and list what it is that could go wrong, as well as what you are doing or could be doing to prevent them from going wrong.

Style of assessment?

You will need to write these assessments down, but if you are looking for a standard document to complete a risk assessment, you’re out of luck. There are plenty of examples on Google, so that may be a good place to start, or you can contact me and I will let you have something that could help.

Where do I start?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will tell you that there are five steps to completing a risk assessment. Well, I think there are more, so here goes:

• Identify what could go wrong and cause harm to someone in the premises, within the organisation or with the task you are doing. It is worth doing some research. Get using Google for a start. You won’t be the first one with this risk assessment to do.
• Decide on who could be harmed. This is really important to do, as a small risk to your staff might be a huge issue to the elderly lady that has just walked through your door to talk to you about her husband who has just passed away.
• Consider the controls that are in place so far. There are usually some already in place naturally, so make sure they work and then you can move to the next step.
• Evaluate the risk. This means look at the severity of the outcome, then look at how likely it is to happen. This likelihood part is where all the bad press comes from for health and safety. People focus on the fact that a major injury could occur and then ban it altogether. The fact that it may never happen or once a year will obviously dictate what measures you need to take to control the risk.
• Add more control measures if there is still a risk that you will harm someone. The aim is to get the risk level down to an acceptable one.

What should I do next?

Simple, just tell everyone about what you have found. Tell them about the risk they could be exposed to and what they should do to prevent any harm from happening to them. I would keep a record of this as well, just in case someone official wants to see it.

Good luck and remember; if you need any help you know where we are.

If you are uncertain about a matter to do with health and safety, you are entitled to use our support service completely free of charge.

If you think you might need a more permanent relationship with us, we can do two things for you. Initially we can come and visit you to see where you are with health and safety, and provide you with a full report on what we found and what you need to do (if anything) to improve health and safety. This really beneficial service costs just the price of the travel.

If you do want our assistance to fully comply with health and safety legislation the next thing we can do for you, as part of your SAIF membership, is offer a sizeable discount on our fees. This stands at 20% at the moment so why not take advantage now.

Talk to a safety professional at Safety for Business today by calling 08456 344 164.

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