By Joanna Weekes
As an employer, one of your duties under health and safety legislation is to identify hazards and assess risks to safety in your workplace.
And no matter which industry your business operates in, risk management processes are imperative to keeping your safe work systems up to date and relevant.
To do this effectively, you must conduct regular risk assessments.
Why assessing risks in your workplace is so important
Risk assessments are an essential part of any workplace health and safety procedure because they help you judge the severity of the hazards in your workplace AND help you determine which ones need the most urgent attention.
But conducting a proper risk assessment is not as simple as it sounds – there are many factors you must consider.
What is involved in a risk assessment?
A risk assessment involves identifying a hazard to health and safety, assessing it to determine the likelihood that it will result in injury, illness or damage, and then assessing how serious that injury, illness or damage might be.
Here are three key things you need to cover when conducting a risk assessment:
1. Likelihood of the hazard causing injury or illness.
You need to assess:
- the likelihood of injury or illness occurring as a result of exposure to the hazard;
- how often and for how long will people be exposed to the hazard (i.e. intermittently or continuously?)
- what specific factors may increase the risk of the injury or illness occurring, e.g. experience, health, training?
- how many people will be exposed to the hazard?
2. Potential severity of the consequences.
Here, you will need to assess the particular consequences and potential severity of any injury or illness that could occur as a result of the risk.
3. Adequacy of your existing control measures.
Ask yourself what control measures (if any) are already in place and whether they are sufficient to either eliminate or adequately control the risk.
If you work your way through these considerations for each task that has the potential to create a workplace incident, it will answer a lot of questions that will lead you to the information you have been searching for:
- the likelihood and consequences of each specific hazard;
- the level of risk caused by the hazard; and therefore
- the level of priority that needs to be given to that hazard.
For example, the two extremes are:
- a task that involves a hazard that can cause death and that people will be exposed to often is a high risk activity, e.g. working at heights, working with electricity; and
- a task that involves a hazard that will only cause a first aid treatable injury and that people are not very likely to be exposed to during the task will be a low risk activity.
High risk activities require urgent attention.
But remember, even if you work in a seemingly low risk working environment, hazards exist and the risk management process is still an essential part of creating your safe work systems.