A risk assessment is a vital step in working to protect your workers and your organisation, as well as making sure you are compliant with applicable laws. It helps you focus on the relevant risks that really matter in your workplace - the risks with the potential to cause real harm. In most instances, straightforward processes can readily control risks, as an example ensuring that any spillages are cleaned up without delay so that people slipping is avoided, or that cupboard drawers are closed to eliminate the trip hazard. In many cases, cheap, simple and effective measures are all that are needed to ensure that your most valuable asset - your workforce - is protected. |
A risk assessment is essentially an in-depth examination of your workplace, to determine what could cause harm to people. From this, you can weigh up whether you should do more to prevent harm or if you have taken enough precautions already. Workers, visitors and sub-contractors all have rights to be protected from harm caused by failures to take all reasonable control measures. Ill health and accidents can ruin lives and affect the running of your business too, if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. It is a legal requirement that you assess the risks in your place of work so that you can put a plan in place to control the risks identified.
The top five common mistakes are:
1. Thinking a risk assessment is just a piece of paper. It is necessary to properly document a risk assessment so that it can be shared and reviewed by others, this is only part of the task. Integrating an up-to-date risk assessment into your planning will ensure the initial evaluation of risk is proactive and integrated into your processes, rather than added on as an afterthought.
2. Your risk assessments are not tailored to your workplace. While many workplaces, particularly offices, have similar hazards; there are also areas that can greatly differ. It is therefore important to look at the risks specific to your organisation's activities, workplace and employees as opposed to a generic "might catch all" assessment. A well constructed assessment that is specific to your own workplace will be relevant, concise and more readily understood and accepted by your colleagues.
3. The risk assessor is not competent to carry out a risk assessment properly. The risk assessor must be able to identify any hazards in a workplace, know what can be deemed acceptable, and what control measures are available and suitable for your specific working environment. If they are not fully aware of the relevant aspects, you could potentially have the situation of having the wrong controls in place. You should choose your risk assessor on their experience of your type of working environment.
4. You have not involved your employees in the risk assessment process. One of the most important parts of the process, both during and after, is involving your colleagues. If the employees that the control measures are put in place for are involved in the risk assessment process, they will have greater understanding of why the controls are put in place, and they will adhere to them as opposed to resenting them. They will also prove a great source of information while implementing controls, ensuring that they are both a suitable and workable solution.
5. You think you are covered, just because you have documented some form of risk assessment, which can give you a false sense of security. There are many things that happen in the life of a business, for example updates to working practices, new equipment, and new people. Documenting the hazards and risks is only the start of the risk assessment process; The success of the assessment will be measured on how you manage and control the risks identified in the process.
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