What is a risk assessment policy?

Ensuring the safety of staff and the overall working environment is vitally important in the workplace – both in terms of protecting their wellbeing , avoiding incidents and covering yourself and your business from any claims of wrongdoing. Many different processes work towards this goal, but a risk assessment is a proven and commonly used solution in any professional setting, and it’s one of the primary responsibilities of any business owner.

What is the purpose of a risk assessment?

An important consideration for businesses in any industry, risk assessments are used to identify, monitor and review the dangers in a working environment. Once a risk assessment has been planned, carried out and documented, changes and improvements can be implemented in the workplace to prevent these potential hazards from causing your employees any harm. As well as a crucial practice for safeguarding, risk assessments also function as an opportunity to add further safety measures based on the findings.

During any risk assessment, the person in charge will ask themselves a number of questions. These include:

  • What potential accidents could occur in this environment?
  • Under what circumstances would this happen?
  • What are the potential consequences?
  • How likely are these consequences to occur?
  • Can the potential risk be removed?
  • Is the risk currently being controlled to a suitable and reasonable extent?
  • Is further action needed?
An employer carrying out a risk assessment of his business

Why do we have risk assessments in the workplace?

When carried out effectively, risk assessments account for every potential hazard and find solutions to remove or prevent them from causing harm. It is the duty of every employer to do this, and by ensuring that all risks are recognised, employees and anyone else that comes into contact with the business will be safer from these potential dangers.

While general health and safety risk assessments typically question the overall level of risk in a specific area, there are many different types of risk assessment that a business can do. For example, additional risk assessments may be required regarding specific working environments if an employee were to become pregnant, for instance, or if an employee requires additional support due to a disability. In these circumstances, a tailored risk assessment would be needed to cater to their specific needs.

Is a risk assessment a legal requirement?

All employers are required by law to protect their employees – and anyone else that is involved in their business – from harm. Under this structure, the minimum that is expected of a business is to identify hazards that could cause injury or illness, gauge the likelihood of the potential issue causing harm and the level of risk it poses, and implement a solution to remove the problem or a plan to control and manage the issue from causing harm.

Who is responsible for the completion of risk assessments?

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) states that it is the employer’s responsibility to carry out risk assessments for their business. The employer must also meet certain criteria for the organisation, planning, controlling, monitoring and reviewing of the measures put in place to protect employees and account for any and all potential hazards.

In many professional settings, the employer will delegate risk assessments to other people – typically the business’ HR department. However, while it is the responsibility of the person the employer has chosen, an incomplete, unsuitable or non-existent risk assessment policy would ultimately be the fault of the employer.

When should a risk assessment be carried out?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) encourages businesses to regularly reassess potential risks in their workplace. To ensure that no further risks have arisen and no new measures are needed, the HSE recommends that businesses carry out a risk assessment at least once a year.

However, they also state that a risk assessment should happen every time new procedures, equipment or substances are introduced into the workplace as they may lead to the possibility of new hazards. It could also be worth carrying out a risk assessment if there is a high staff turnover to check that all existing employees are aware of the health and safety protocol, and if there’s been any concerning changes such as a rise in absences relating to a problem in the workplace.

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