Health and Safety Risk Assessment and the Law
Where a health and safety risk assessment and the law is concerned, a lot of employers may be asking whether it is a legal obligation and the short and simple answer to this, is yes.
At the very least, a risk assessment is a legal requirement in a working environment as it forms a crucial part of the health and safety management system.
The assessment of risk is a daily task in everyday life and people do not always realise that they are doing it. Is it safe to change lanes on the highway? Is it going to rain, do I need to take an umbrella? Risk assessment becomes second nature to us and there is no law that demands that we do it.
We do not want to get hurt or be the reason someone else is harmed.
In the workplace, employers are tasked with the responsibility under the Occupational Health and Safety act to protect their workers and anyone else who may enter the premises, from being harmed by their work activities.
What is lawfully required?
The fact that employers must ensure that a safe working environment is provided for all workers and those who enter the premises makes risk assessments an integral part of compliance, as it is the easiest way, and the first defence, to ensure that a workplace is safe.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act tasks employers to provide a healthy and safe work environment for all employees. One of the easiest and most effective ways in which workplace hazards and risks can be identified, controlled, managed, and mitigated, is through a risk assessment.
For this reason, they can be considered a legal requirement as it forms part of the employer’s legal obligations and duties, in conjunction with that of employee’s to safeguard their own health and safety as well.
Risk assessments are crucial, and it is imperative that record be kept of such assessments to prove that the employer did all that they could in ensuring a healthy and safe working environment. Where risks cannot be eliminated, the risk assessment indicates the existence of such, the risk level, and the actions that were taken to prevent harm to employees and/or visitors.
Types of risk assessments and how a risk assessment must be carried out
There are numerous types of risk assessments, including:
- Qualitative risk assessments
- Quantitative risk assessments
- Generic risk assessments
- Site-specific risk assessment
- Baseline Risk assessments
- Issued-based risk assessments, and numerous others.
Each risk assessment plays a role in the health and safety management system of an organisation and there are different risk assessments that can be done at various levels of the operation, depending on the work being conducted, or in which process or department, or phase of operation the risk assessment is required.
A risk assessment must be carried out before work commences in a workplace, either when a new shift starts, or when employees return to work in the morning or after a weekend. The reason for this is that conditions may have changed, or there may be factors that could influence whether a workplace is safe and healthy such as water and gas leaks, and numerous others.
When risk assessments are conducted in the correct manner, they are a useful management tool that can be used to consistently ensure that employees and others are kept safe. Risk assessments can:
- Identify health and safety hazards and evaluate the risks which are present in the workplace.
- Evaluate the effectiveness as well as the suitability of existing control measures which are in place.
- Ensure that additional controls can be implemented if the remaining risk is anything other than low.
- They can prioritise further resources, if needed, to ensure the above stated.
Risk assessments can be conducted effectively by following these few steps:
- Identify potential hazards by doing a walkabout and observation, looking over past incidents and accidents, checking the data sheets, instructions, information, and manuals of manufacturers, and by consulting employees.
- Identify who may be harmed by the hazards identified.
- Evaluate the risk severity and ensure to establish precautions by considering the likelihood that harm can occur, severity of harm, knowledge regarding elimination, reduction, or control of hazards and risks, and the costs associated with the available control measures which are intended for the elimination, reduction, or suitable control of the risks.
- Implement the changes and record the findings pertaining to what was found, who is/was affected, the controls which were put in place, who carried out the risk assessment, and on what date the assessment was done.
- Review the assessment and reassess if necessary, especially after there were significant changes in the workplace or within a process, after an accident or an ill-health incident has occurred, after a near-miss was reported.
How does SafetyWallet support its subscribers?
SafetyWallet, in partnership with MAKROSAFE and OHS Online, ensures that subscribers can obtain the highest level of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, all other Regulations, and more.
Through the assistance and support in the health and safety programme of the subscriber, SafetyWallet helps subscribers with the health and safety risk assessments that must be conducted to ensure that subscribers are compliant in providing a healthy and safe working environment.
For more information, click here.
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