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Most of us at some point have probably thought “what is a risk assessment and when do I need to do one?”

Risk management is a step-by-step process for controlling health and safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace. The easiest and safest way to document these risks are to assess them. Therefore, a risk assessment. You do this by identifying hazards, assessing the risks they pose, documenting how to control those risks, recording your findings and reviewing them atleast annually but also when they; may no longer be effective, there are changes in the workplace (staff, processes, equipment used) that could lead to new risks, and if there have been any accidents or near misses. The reviewed document must then be updated with the review date.

Employer’s are required by law to protect employees, and others, from harm. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum they must do is:

  • identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
  • decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
  • take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk

From 1 April, it will no longer be a legal requirement to have COVID in your risk assessments but we recommend updating your risk assessments to be in line with the current COVID guidance. With the virus ever changing, you never know when it may need to be added back in again!

For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward. You can do the Risk assessing yourself or appoint a competent person to help you.

Not every businesses has the same risks. You must think about the specific hazards and controls your business needs.

So where do you start? Look around your workplace. Think about what may cause harm (a potential hazard). Some workers have particular requirements, for example young workersmigrant workersnew or expectant mothers and people with disabilities.

Think about hazards to health, physically and mentally, such as manual handling and causes of work-related stress. For each hazard, think about how employees, contractors, visitors or members of the public might be harmed. Look back at your accident records. These can help you identify less obvious hazards that you may not have thought impose a risk but clearly do. Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious it could be. This is assessing the level of risk.

Then you need to look at controlling the risks. Look at what you are already doing, and the controls you already have in place and think if you can get rid of the hazard all together. You’re not expected to eliminate all risks but you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.

If you employ 5 or more people, you must record your significant findings.

If you are a landlord of any building, Fire risk assessments are required to be carried out by law to ensure that the risks associated with fire are minimised in non-domestic premises to keep the people working, living or uses the premises safe. This typically means workplaces but can also include common areas of premises provided by a landlord. These cannot be done by the owner and must be done externally. We can carry these out for you. Contact us for further details.

If you are struggling with your risk assessment(s), our team of consultants have considerable expertise and experience undertaking a wide variety of risk assessments across a number of different business sectors. Whether you require an assessment for an individual member of staff, a particular area of practice or an entire organisation we can help. Further information on our Risk assessment service can be found here. Following the assessment, we will provide you with an electronic copy of your assessment/s and where required comment further on any steps that might need to be taken to reduce risk. Any documentation produced will be shared with you.

We also offer a half day Risk Assessment course so you can confidently carry out your own assessments and is aimed at staff with the responsibility for carrying out risk assessments within their workplace. This participative course leaves delegates with a clear understanding of the risk assessment process.  We look at a number of different risk assessment templates (including your own) and complete a number of practical exercises.

The HSE website includes some templates to get you started