How to carry out a Health and Safety Risk Assessment in your workplace
Employers have a legal obligation to provide and maintain a healthy and safe working environment. However, even if this will look different for each organisation, it will no doubt include health and safety risk assessment in your workplace.
There must be a systematic and organised approach in place to manage the risks and this is the only way through which a healthy and safe workplace can be created.
The way in which a health and safety risk assessment is carried out will influence the controls that are put in place as well as the overall level of health and safety in the workplace.
What is a Risk Assessment and why is it important?
A risk assessment can be described as a comprehensive review of the workplace to effectively identify anything that could cause harm. Hazards may include tasks, applications, tools, equipment, behaviour, and environmental conditions, to only name a few. This means that anything could have the potential to cause harm.
The risk is the likelihood of harm occurring and a risk assessment, in its entirety, describes the overall activity involved with hazard identification, risk analysis, and determining the controls to implement.
Risk assessments are the process of analysing the significance attributed to each identified risk and putting measures in place to eliminate, reduce, control, or mitigate the risks. When done correctly, risk assessments serve as crucial management tools for effective risk management in the organisation.
By carrying out these WHS risk assessments, employers can create awareness, put controls in place, and hopefully, prevent or reduce injuries and occupational illnesses in the workplace.
How often must a Risk Assessment be carried out?
Risk assessments are not something that can be done once-off and never again. They are something that must be done frequently, with triggers for WHS risk assessments being anything from new work activities and changes to equipment or tools, to new substances, procedures, and other changes that may hold potential for new hazards.
In addition, when there is high turnover in staff, the way new staff conduct work or complete tasks must be reviewed so that they do not create hazards in failing to use safe working procedures.
Changes to the personal circumstances of existing staff may also lead to new hazards. If someone is pregnant or is diagnosed with a medical condition they did not previously have, the work-based risks may change.
Al these factors must be considered as grounds for determining risk assessment frequency in addition to conventional triggers such as conducting a risk assessment after an incident has occurred.
How to assess risks in the workplace
The process involved with how you would carry out a health and safety risk assessment in your workplace is simple and can be done through a series of five steps which are discussed below.
This process involves identifying anything that may cause harm. Whereas some hazards may be obvious as they are well-known in the industry, others may take more effort to identify.
For this reason, it is crucial to consult with employees and to systematically analyse each task or activity performed and the tools and/or equipment used. Hazards can also be identified by encouraging employees to report anything that they may come across during their daily routine.
To empower employees, employers must ensure that an effective incident reporting system and documentation is in place and that all incidents are investigated.
Once the hazards present in the workplace are known, the likelihood and severity of the related risk can be assessed and analysed. This part of the assessment process will provide insight into how hazards may cause an injury in addition to how different hazards interact with one another.
Consideration must be given to who may be harmed, whether it is employees, contractors, visitors, or members of the public.
To manage the risks, the most effective control measures which are reasonably practicable in the circumstances must be implemented. The most effective and favorable control is for hazards to be eliminated. However, this is not always possible. For this reason, there are other controls that follow elimination, these are:
- Engineering controls
- Administrative controls
- And the last resort only if other controls are ineffective, personal protective equipment.
Each time that an assessment is carried out, the findings must be recorded. The report must include the hazard, related risks, and the actions which were taken to eliminate, reduce, or minimise the risks.
This record is a working document that must be easily accessible by all employees and other interested parties.
Review the risk assessments
There are a lot of changes that can and will occur within the place of work and it is therefore vital that controls must remain effective. When assessments are reviewed, it is crucial to consider whether there are new working practices, machinery, staff, or any other changes, and ensure that safe working practices are still relevant.
Employers’ workplace health and safety responsibilities
Employers have the duty to assess the health and safety risks that employees may be exposed to. It is crucial that employers systematically check for the following hazards:
By knowing what their WHS responsibilities are, understanding what a risk assessment is, why it is a vital part of the OHS systems and program, and knowing how to effectively assess risks in the workplace, employers can create a healthier and safer work environment for everyone.
How does SafetyWallet support its subscribers?
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Through the assistance and support in the health and safety program 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.
Keeping your workplace legally Health and Safety Compliant may seem like a daunting task. At MAKROSAFE, we have an experienced team of OHS experts available to assist in keeping your company Health and Safety Compliant according to South African Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 and Regulations.
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