Form a team

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require every employer to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

As a result you must assess the risks to health and safety of anyone who may be affected by your work activities so that you can weigh up whether you have done enough or need to do more to comply with the law.

An assessment of risk, formerly known as risk assessment, is nothing more than a careful examination of what in your workplace could cause harm to people. The aim is to make sure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill.

Accidents and ill-health can:

  • ruin lives
  • affect your business if output is lost, machinery is damaged,
  • insurance costs increase or you have to go to court.
  • In smaller businesses most accidents are caused by a few key activities.

Firstly, it is essential that you clearly understand the definitions of the terms hazard and risk.

Generally there are a number of definitions but in the simplest terms:

  • Hazard is something with the potential to cause harm, such as electricity or chemicals
  • Risk is the likelihood of that harm (big or small) being realised.

The important things you need to decide are whether a hazard is significant and whether you have it covered by satisfactory precautions so that the risk is small. You need to check this when you assess the risks.

For example electricity can kill but the risk of it doing so in an office environment is remote, provided that live components are insulated and metal casings are properly earthed.

Another example is to think of a can of solvent on a shelf. There is a hazard if the solvent is toxic or flammable but very little risk. The risk increases when it is taken down, opened and poured into a bucket. Harmful vapour is given off and there is a danger of spillage. Things are made much worse if a mop is then used to spread it over the floor for cleaning. The chance of harm, or the risk, is then high.

In order to identify the hazards associated with the activities it is good practice to involve the employees who carry out the task in question. Forming a team that includes key employees has 2 main advantages:

You will gain a more realistic view of how the work activity is carried out. Employees will feel more involved with the process thereby raising their awareness of health and safety issues and finding realistic answers to any problem areas identified

Once the team is formed it is necessary to identify the hazards that employees believe exist within their working environments. To help you and your team assess the risks to health and safety think about the hazards. For example:

  • Electricity, such as the use of faulty equipment, the use of unsuitable equipment
  • Use of hazardous substances, such as beer line cleaner, perming lotions, degreasers'
  • Exposure to hazardous substances, such as wood dusts, fumes
  • Use of plant and equipment, such as forklift trucks, circular saws, food slicers, bandsaws, knives, pressure water cleaners, ladders
  • Manual handling, such as lifting beer crates, lifting laundry, moving patients

When this process has been carried out you should have a list of all the hazards associated with your workplace. The list of hazards in a workplace is extensive within any type of business. In some businesses the risks associated with hazards may be low. Therefore, once the hazards have been identified it is necessary to look at the associated risks to determine if further controls require to be implemented to ensure a safe working environment.

To help you decide ask yourself:

  • What is the worst result?
  • Is it someone suffering a broken bone, permanent lung damage or being killed?
  • How likely is it to happen?
  • How often do you do the job?
  • How close do people get to the hazard?
  • How likely is it that something can go wrong?
  • How many people could be hurt if things did go wrong?
  • Could this include people who do not work for you?

The risks should be listed and formally recorded so that everyone is aware of all the hazards.