How to Conduct Workplace Risk Assessments
Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees and as such should create a safe work environment. In many instances, the very nature of the site and tasks that the employee must complete hold safety risks. Managing the dangers to minimise the risk of injury or harm is why risk assessments must be carried out. Such assessments are necessary to identify the current and potential dangers in order to manage them effectively. The five steps involved in conducting risk assessments are briefly discussed below.
Identification of dangers and hazards that may cause injury or harm
Workers face safety risks daily, but the employer must follow a systematic approach to identify possible biological, mental, chemical, or physical dangers. A mental hazard can be related to work overload, shift work (especially night shift work with accompanying sleep deprivation), or having to deal with things like workplace bullying tactics. A chemical hazard relates to aspects such as working with or in an environment where there are dangerous cleaning fluids, explosives, asbestos, mercury, arsenic, or any such hazardous substance.
Physical hazards range from working at heights and being exposed to loud noises, microwaves, to having to work under water, with electrical wiring, or exposed to dangers such as slips, falls, posture-related problems because of the position in which the employee spends a lot of time, eye problems related to being exposed to bright light or flashing light, and other dangers such as dust and falling rocks. A biological risk can be anything from infections to tuberculosis and transmission of infectious diseases, mostly faced by people working in the healthcare industry.
Identification of who is at risk and to what degree
The employer must identify the employees including part-time workers that are at risk of health or safety problems because of the hazards they are exposed to. Situations and locations where the employees work and the routines at these must be assessed. The employer must then also review the risk levels and potential external people who are at risk such as customers and contractors that may be visiting the premises.
An example can be the grocery store set-up. The employer assesses the hazards that the receiving staff face such as slips, falls, potential injuries from carrying loads, and possible trip hazards in the store area. Staff can also face risks such as being held at gunpoint in robbery attempts or being injured when a customer becomes violent. In the office environment risks related to posture injury as the result of the workstation set-up must be assessed and corrective steps identified to minimise the hazards and potential risks to the employees.
Assessment and action to minimise or eliminate risks
The probability of harm or injury as the result of each particular risk must be identified. The higher the probability, the more important it would be to lower the risk level. Even with every step taken to eliminate risks, some level of risk may still remain. The employer must identify the levels of risk after action has been taken.
Recording and reporting on the results
Any employer who has a work staff profile of five or more people must record in writing the assessment results and must include full details of all the hazards recorded in addition to the corrective action taken to lower or completely eliminate the hazard or level of risk because of the hazard. The report shows that a risk assessment has been conducted. All risk assessments must be accessible and not locked away.
The final step is that of management review to assess whether the safe work and operation processes are applied on a consistent basis. The review furthermore must also address the introduction of new equipment, work hours, changes in the workspace, etc. It is important to determine whether a risk is an acceptable one and is thus tolerated. The severity of the risk and the results of being exposed to it must be reviewed.
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