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Health and Safety Risk Assessments
What they are, why you need them

A Health and Safety Risk assessment helps assess the risks identified with a Hazard and helps the user(s) devise ways to address them. Who is involved will vary depending on where the hazard is located the associated risk and whom the risk is posed to. These could be members of the general public, employees of your company or visitors to your workplace. Another way to consider a Health and Safety risk assessment is as a pro-active way of dealing with hazards and their risks before they transpire.

Hazards can take a variety of forms and can be defined as any situation or device that has the potential to cause harm. Some examples of hazards are heavy or dangerous machinery, loud noises, chemical spills, bullying, and objects that can cause trips or falls, damaged equipment and objects such as broken bars, walls, exposed wires etc. If it can or is perceived to be able to cause harm to a person or thing, then it is considered a hazard.

Once the hazard has been identified the risk needs to be assessed. The risk is the likelihood that harm will befall someone or something when exposed to the hazard. A risk assessment form is a necessary tool to help with this and will have several categories for determining the risk a hazard poses (usually displayed on a risk assessment matrix). These include the likely-hood of the risk happening and the most likely consequence if it does. The results can range from low (little likelihood that an injury would or will result from the hazard) to critical (change of life status from living to no longer, permanent disability or severe injuries leading to fast response medical treatment) consequences. Once identified the risk assessment process will help to generate ways to eliminate or at least control the hazard and the risk it possesses.

When assessing what to do in regard to the hazard, make sure that it is reasonably practical. Does it need to keep your workplace safe? Of course, however it shouldn't prevent you from doing what it is that you need to do, the cost involved is another important factor to take into account. It is a good idea to come up with several potential solutions and choose one, that will provide the best possible risk reduction. It will not be necessary to do this with all hazards as many will have simple solutions that are easy to implement.

Steps to remember when conducting a Health and Safety Risk Assessment:

- It is important to remember to identify the hazard or hazards. These can either be physical, mental, chemical or biological.

- Figure out who may be harmed by the hazard whether it is your employees or people from outside the company.

- Assess the risk and decide what sort of action needs to be taken. Whether that action is the need to supply protective equipment, restricted access, mediation sessions or something else entirely. What needs to be done will obviously vary based on the hazard identified and the severity of the risk it represents.

- Make sure a record is kept of the findings including the type of hazard, the assessed level of risk and what was put in place to either eliminate or control it. It is important to make sure that this document is displayed in a place that is easy to read by all concerned.

- Set up a regular review of the risk assessment to help take into account different staff, working practices, equipment etcetera.

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