Managing health and safety in your business means controlling risks in your workplace. There are five steps to follow when assessing risk.
1: Identify any hazards
Potential hazards in the workplace come in many forms and it is your duty as an employer to assess the health and safety risks that your staff face at work. All places of work come with real risks. You must check for these risks. They might include:
- Physical—heavy lifting, uncomfortable postures, slips and trips, noise, temperature, electrical, dust, machinery, computer equipment, security.
- Mental—stress, excessive working hours or workloads, high-need clients, bullying.
- Biological—tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases. These are often a bigger risk to healthcare workers and home care staff.
- Chemical—cleaning fluids, aerosols, asbestos, etc.
- Decide whom a hazard would harm and how
Once you start to list the hazards in your workplace, you must also list whom the hazards could affect.
- Your employees—both full-time and part-time.
- Agency/contract staff.
- Other members of the public who enter the premises.
You must risk assess the work routines of each location and situation that will involve your staff.
If you run an office-type business, your staff must have a workstation that is suited to them. You must adjust desks, chairs, screens, keyboards, and other equipment to avoid physical risks such as eye or back strain.
Employers have additional risk duties towards young workers, disabled staff, night workers, shift workers, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- Analyse the risks and act
You must rate each risk based on how likely it is to cause harm. A priority chart between 1-5 or 1-10 will work fine.
If “1” is high risk of harm, you should focus on these risks first. Taking steps to reduce a hazard can include acts like investing in new equipment, training for chemical handling, hygiene sundries such as gloves, soap, cleaning liquids, and more.
- Make a record of your findings
Even after taking precautions, you might not be able to eliminate all risks, and it is good practice to put up warning signs where risks exist—for example, in an office kitchen, or at the gates of a construction site.
A health and safety policy and a record of all risks, and what your employees can do to help maintain safety standards in the workplace, are important documents for all staff to have a copy of.
The law requires you to go through a risk assessment in your business. If your business has five employees or fewer you do not need to have a written document, but you could help your staff by having one.
These documents are proof of your risk assessment and you can use them as part of a later review of working practices. Make sure that anyone can access all health and safety, and risk assessment documents, at any time.
- Review and update your risk assessment
Conduct regular reviews of your workplace risk assessments. Make sure that your management team carries on applying the agreed practices, and that your staff continue following them.
Update your risk assessment to account for any new working practices, machinery, or targets with higher demand.
You can find a great risk assessment guide here.