5 Myths of Risk Assessments

Most of us know that it is a legal requirement to carry out risk assessments but do you know how to do it? Health and safety, for some people, can seem quite daunting but really, the basics for most types of risks, can be managed comfortably ‘in-house.’ JCH Safety are regularly asked ‘can you do our risk assessments?’ and of course we can. However, we are also really keen to help our customers to manage their own health and safety. This is partly the idea of our blog, to help our customers to learn a thing or two about fire prevention, health and safet – free of charge. Of course, if you need any advice we are just a phone call or email away so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Let’s get started.

1). What is a risk assessment?

Quite simply, It’s a careful examination of the hazards in your workplace!

It is probably a good idea to start at the very beginning and to explain what a risk assessment is. The Health and Safety Executive, which is the primary body responsible for health and safety in the UK, says that risk assessment is “..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…” Now, this brings us to the next question ‘do you need to do a risk assessment and does it need to be written down?’ In short- if you have more than 5 staff you need to do both. That means assess the risks and then keep a written record. If you have less than 5 staff you don’t necessarily need to keep a written risk assessment but you do need to assess the risks. It is really good practice to carry out risk assessments and to keep a written record, whatever the size of your organisation.

2). How do I carry out a risk assessment and do I need to call in the experts?

Sometimes an expert is needed but for many lower risk environments there is probably no reason why you can’t attempt the risk assessment yourself. The HSE offer some great, free advice on how to put a risk assessment together so this will be a great source of information for you to have a look at, after you have finished reading the blog!

Here’s the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/controlling-risks.htm

Firstly you’ll need to have a look around your workplace and identify any potential hazards. A hazard is anything that may cause harm, some examples might be chemicals such as bleach, electricity, tools, working from ladders, trailing extension leads or holes in the floor. Then you need to consider the level of risk. That means how likely is the chance that a hazard might cause harm? When formulating your evaluation you need to consider an indication of how serious would the harm be from the hazard, should an accident happen. Would it result in death, a scratch or a broken bone perhaps?

Have a look around your work area, identify a key list of realistic hazards and assess them. Once the hazards are identified you need to think about who could be at risk and how could people be harmed? For example a loose carpet edge could cause a hazard as someone could fall and maybe break a bone doing so. If the issue was at the top of a set of busy stairs it would be a greater risk than if it was a small lifted corner in a rarely used meeting room for example. So add into your evaluation how many people are exposed to the risk and how frequently, as the greater the number -the more likely it will be that someone will get hurt.  The people at risk could be colleagues working in the area, members of the public and possibly children if the area is a accessible to the public for example.

Once the risk is identified, considered and evaluated you need to record your findings. In other words write it down. There are several ways of doing this. The templates provided by the HSE are a good method and these are freely available on the HSE website. Alternatively there are several risk assessment software applications out there that you can use to make life easier. JCH Safety offers a great health and safety management software package (see link to the video on the bottom of the homepage please https://youtu.be/Rd9hRQ5GH5k) The software helps you to identify risks and easily create great looking risk assessments. You can produce them on your PC or tablet. If you would like to talk to us about the software please let us know. We offer it to all of our clients as it really helps them to manage safety in a quick and simple way. Being cloud based means that should clients need help that we can provide it to them remotely.  We also provide completed templates on our software that you can personalise to your exact situation. This helps to speed up the process of managing risk and lets you get on with running your organisation.

3). What is the point of the risk assessment?

This is fairly simple. They are designed to reduce the risk of an accident happening and to mitigate the level of harm that is inflicted, should the worst happen. This means that you might likely need to put some action in to reduce the negative consequences of an incident occurring. You could reduce access to an area to limit the number of people being exposed to a hazard, for example. It might mean simply fixing a loose flooring tile. Think through the hazards that you have identified and come up with sensible ways of reducing the risk. Fix the fault, limit exposure, wear protective clothing or equipment, use an alternative chemical. All of these are suggested ways of controlling hazards. Once you have identified the hazard, evaluated the risk, you then need to add in the control measures.

Risk assessments are required by law and there are penalties for not doing them. Don’t risk prosecution or the lives of your colleagues. Make sure you have up to date risk assessments in place.

A key part of the risk assessment process is the importance of keeping your risk assessments as a ‘living’ document. Make sure staff are aware of the risk assessments and know what control measures are expected to prevent people from becoming hurt. The people you work with need to know there is a hazard and also what to do about them. Ensure everyone is informed about control measures. A key part of health and safety management and risk control is good communication. Think about ways to share risk assessments with your colleagues and staff. Perhaps a safety meeting might be a good idea where the risk assessments are showcased and explained. Perhaps follow them up by emailing the risk assessments out to staff. Some companies keep risk assessments on health and safety notice boards. However you choose to share risk assessments make sure that you keep a record that they have been provided to your team and explained.

4). Do I need to do anything else with the risk assessment? Does it need to be reviewed?

Yes, risk assessments need to be reviewed and updated regularly. Depending on the item being assessed will depend how often they require to be reviewed. The minimum requirement should be that they are reviewed at least annually. However, they may need much more frequent review. If the hazard changes or people exposed to the risk alters, this would be a good time to review the assessment. If an accident occurs, the relevant risk assessments should be reviewed. Do additional or different control measures need to be introduced to minimise the risk further to keep people safe? If technology changes risks should be reassessed.

If you regularly use your risk assessments, refer to them and consult the documents you will often see a need to update the risk assessment. Keep them handy, either electronically or in paper format. Set reminders in your diary to carry out hazard reviews and keep on top of the risk to your organisation.

5). What are the Five Steps to Risk Assessment?

The process of carrying out a risk assessment is often referred to as ‘The Five Steps To Risk Assessment’. This blog article has been based on this method of assessing risk. To help you remember how to carry out a risk assessment here are the five steps:

Step 1: Identify the hazards i.e. anything that might cause harm.

Step 2: Decide who may be harmed and how.

Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.

Step 4: Record your significant findings.

Step 5: Review your assessment and update if necessary.

Remember, that many risk assessments can often be done in house. It is important that complex risks are assessed by specialists or people specially trained in how to assess certain specific risks. For example, Display Screen Equipment hazards and DSE assessments should be carried out by people with specific skills. JCH Safety would be only too pleased to assist your organisation here. Either by helping you to carry out your DSE assessments or by providing your company with the training to be able to do it yourself. Our online Assessing Display Screen Equipment training course is designed to help organisations that use DSE equipment, such as computers, understand the specific hazards and appropriate controls. Please feel free to try our free trial of the course and enjoy the first module free of charge. The whole course is only £25 so it really is good value for money.

Other areas where you may require specialist help might be in carrying out fire risk assessments or specific machinery risk assessments. The key to carrying out a risk assessment is to be competent, to have the relevant training and experience, of the hazards to know how to safely control the risks.

Please feel free to get in touch to discuss any risk assessments OR your health, fire or safety concerns.