What is a risk assessment and why are risk assessments important?

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Have you ever wondered Risk Assessments: what they are, why are risk assessments important and how to complete them? All will be answered shortly after.

Whether you’re wondering why are risk assessments important and how to complete them or are unsure of their relevance within your industry, read on to discover everything you need to know.

What is a risk assessment?

The definition of a risk assessment is a systematic process of identifying hazards and evaluating any associated risks within a workplace, then implementing reasonable control measures to remove or reduce them.

Evaluating any associated risks within a workplace

Evaluating any associated risks within a workplace

When completing a risk assessment, it is important to clearly define some keywords:

 – An accident is ‘an unplanned event that results in loss’

 – A hazard is ‘something that has the potential to cause harm’

 – A risk is ‘the likelihood and the severity of a negative occurrence (injury, ill-health, damage, loss) resulting from a hazard.’

 – Additional training may be required if you need to complete or re-assess your risk management procedures. Completing training such as our Level 2

 – Award in Principles of Risk Assessment course will help ensure a risk assessment is suitable and sufficiently detailed.

Different types of risk assessments

The types of risk assessment required within any workplace should be proportionate and relevant to the operational activities being undertaken. In many industries, there are specific legislative requirements that apply. For example, in environments where hazardous substances are used a Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Assessment (COSHH) should be completed (for more information see What is COSHH?).

Some common types of risk assessments include

 – Fire risk assessments: fire safety management procedures are required to be established in all workplaces including a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.

 – Manual handling risk assessments: should be conducted in any workplace where an employee may be at risk from injury and/or ill-health through the need to lift, carry, move loads.

 – Display screen equipment (DSE) risk assessments: are required to be completed in workplaces where employees (and others) are using computers, laptops, etc.

 – COSHH risk assessments: are required within workplaces where hazardous substances are stored, used or manufactured.

 – A business may also choose to complete a Risk Assessment Method Statement (RAMS) dependent upon the nature of the operations being carried out. This process contains details of the hazard and a step-by-step procedure on how to complete work and suitably control the risks identified. This process is commonly used within the construction industry.

Why are risk assessments important?

As previously stated, carrying out suitable and sufficient risk assessments is the primary management tool in effective risk management. It is a legal requirement for any employer and must be documented wherever five or more people are employed.

Risk assessment is a straightforward and structured method of ensuring the risks to the health, safety and wellbeing of employees (and others) are suitably eliminated, reduced or controlled

The main purpose of risk assessments are

 – To identify health and safety hazards and evaluate the risks presented within the workplace

 – To evaluate the effectiveness and suitability of existing control measures

Evaluate the effectiveness and suitability of existing control measures

 – To ensure additional controls (including procedural) are implemented wherever the remaining risk is considered to be anything other than low.

 – To prioritise further resources if needed to ensure the above.

It can be a costly lesson for a business if they fail to have necessary controls in place. They could face not only financial loss (through fines, civil actions, etc) but also loss in respect of production time, damage to equipment, time to train replacement employees and negative publicity amongst others.

A recent article in BSC Safety Management magazine outlines an incident where a business was ‘fined £274,000 after two workers became trapped in moving machinery in two separate incidents’ (see 2 Sisters fined after finger and thumb severed at poultry factory.) In the report, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Saffron Turnell noted that “companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.” It is cases like this one that should act as a warning for all business and highlight the importance of risk assessments.

 

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