What Is a Health and Safety Risk Assessment?
Conducting a health and safety risk assessment at your worksite is one of the best ways to protect your employees and company. When workers suffer an occupational injury or illness, it causes unforeseen expenses in the form of worker compensations and liabilities. In some cases, it’s not just both parties that suffer losses, the effects ripple through the rest of the workforce as workplace morale falters.
Through a risk assessment in relation to health and safety, you can minimize risks and even prevent them from happening. Intentionally walking through all aspects of your businesses to identify, analyze, and control workplace hazards will put you in the best position to improve your safety practices and better protect your employees and even the general public.
A risk assessment is also a legal requirement for employers mandated under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. According to its provisions, every employer or self-employed individual must make sure to carefully examine and evaluate all the risks that can harm your workers and everyone else who may be affected by the activities at the worksite.
To help you meet compliance requirements, safety risk assessment forms can be useful tools you can use to streamline the assessment process and ensure that every important step is done thoroughly. It can also help you list all the information that needs to be collected so you can effectively conduct an analysis that will allow you to set appropriate control measures.
The objectives of a risk assessment are to:
- Determine the hazards present in the workplace and the people who are at risk
- Assess the severity of the risks even with control measures in place
- Implement more safeguards as necessary to mitigate the risks to the lowest level possible
This article covers the following topics:
What Are the Most Common Health and Safety Risks?
In a report released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), over 1.6 million workers suffered work-related illnesses in 2019. At the top of the tally are these three common risks to occupational health and safety in the workplace:
1. Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
In 2019 alone, 828,000 employees suffered from mental health conditions because of excessive workloads, workplace violence, lack of management support, and work transitions. As a result, over 17.9 million working days were lost as absences rise. The industries with the highest record of workplace stress were recorded in the HVAC supply industry followed by public administration and healthcare.
To address this, employers must pinpoint workplace stressors and provide assistance to mitigate them. Hazards that affect mental health are often more tricky to identify as these can be personnel-related (i.e. bullying and violence) or task-related (e.g. workload). In some cases, it could even be because of management (e.g. policies or transitions).
2. Musculoskeletal Injuries
Over 480,000 injuries were recorded because of workers doing tasks that require manual handling, repetitive actions, or awkward positions. Included in this are those working with keyboards. Despite the fact that the numbers have declined over the years, musculoskeletal injuries still prove to be persistent hazards that affect the workforce, especially in agriculture and construction.
Employers must revisit existing operational procedures and employee medical records to effectively identify which tasks are exposing workers to risks of musculoskeletal hazards.
3. Lung Diseases
Approximately 12,000 deaths are linked to occupational respiratory issues. Workers are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and asbestos-related lung diseases. Asbestos is a dangerous substance that requires safety guards to mitigate personnel exposure. It is typically used in the construction and manufacturing industries.
It is imperative that when conducting a health and safety risk assessment, dangerous substances that are present, used, or produced are thoroughly checked and handled using the appropriate personnel protective equipment (PPE).
How Do You Conduct a Health and Safety Risk Assessment?
One of the main reasons workplace hazards persist is because employers fail to identify the root cause of the hazards that are present in the workplace. According to the HSE, a risk assessment should be done before a job is started on a construction site to ensure that workers are protected and hazards are properly mitigated beforehand.
You can conduct a health and safety risk assessment by following these five steps:
1. Identify All Hazards Present in the Workplace
One of the best ways to identify all the hazards at the worksite is to walk around the location and evaluate all machinery, personnel activities, dangerous substances, and work processes that can potentially result in any form of injury.
Hazards are commonly classified into five categories:
- Physical hazards such as slips, machinery, lifts, and falls
- Mental hazards such as workplace violence and workload
- Chemical hazards like asbestos and cleaning fluids
- Biological hazards like infectious diseases
- Ergonomic hazards like tasks that require manual handling and repetitive movements
It’s important to keep in mind that the occupational health and safety risk assessment to be conducted will vary depending on the type of industry you’re in. The method will be different for an industrial worksite compared to an office setting.
As you conduct your risk assessment, consider also interviewing your personnel about their experiences and concerns. The people on the ground will most likely have valuable insight that can help you more effectively identify hazards that you might otherwise miss.
2. Determine Who Are at Risk of Exposure
After you’ve identified the hazards, you need to know who is at risk and how severe are the health threats posed by the hazards. Your employees aren’t the only ones that can be exposed to hazards, even the safety of the general public need to be taken into account, too. This pertains to the people who don’t work at the worksite but can be exposed to risks through business-related visits or product deliveries.
In construction sites, the safety of pedestrians should be included in the assessment. Falling debris and spilled chemical substances are just some examples of ways passersby can be exposed. You can check out this health and safety risk assessment construction for more ideas on how to conduct assessments on construction sites.
3. Implement Control Measures
The main goal of a risk assessment is to minimize the risks that hazards pose on personnel and the public. This entails setting appropriate corrective actions where needed. Depending on the identified risks, your control measures could be one or a combination of the following:
- Elimination: Complete removal of the risk from the worksite or activity.
- Substitution: Replacement of the material, process, or substance into something less dangerous.
- Engineering controls: This can come in the form of fall protection and machine guards.
- Administrative controls: Safety policies and protocols to help work be carried out safely.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): This is meant to provide workers with added protection against hazards.
4. Document Your Findings Using Safety Risk Assessment Forms
When it comes to risk assessment, documentation is critical. This will serve as proof of compliance and most importantly, the foundation of your health and safety program. All gathered data, interviews, and visual documentation should be consolidated into a report and analyzed. Comprehensive descriptions of the hazards, as well as the corrective actions taken, should be detailed.
5. Monitor and Update
Even after the corrective actions have been implemented, execution and progress should still be regularly monitored. Risk assessments are not a one-time thing. It should be updated every time the company goes through any changes or transitions that can increase the risks of hazards in the workplace.
A Mobile Solution for a Health and Safety Risk Assessment
Regularly carrying out a health and safety risk assessment is one of the key tasks to reduce hazards for the company and the employees. If a paper-based method is used, the process can be lengthy and inefficient. This in turn leads to delays when it comes to prioritizing hazard reduction.
Protect your teammates and yourself by regularly checking compliance with all internal standards via mobile app. By regularly checking and easily analyzing the data. The digital solution brings you the following advantages:
- Generate real-time data about your processes. This makes quality and safety measurable for the first time and you can use the data to continuously improve processes.
- All results, images and comments are automatically bundled in a digital report.
- In addition, we offer more than 12,000 templates in our library to help companies get started digitally in no time.
- The very simple operation offers no room for error for auditors on site. The app offers less complexity in documenting or completing checklists than complicated paper or Excel lists.
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