Advice for Employers
Classify your work activities in order to identify workplace hazards at each operational phase e.g. work equipment, substances, activities which could cause harm, for example: dangerous machinery; heavy loads; slipping, tripping and falling hazards; toxic and flammable substances; display screen equipment; vehicles; or violence from the public etc. Be systematic. Inspect the workplace. Study documentation and sector guidance. Consult your workforce and their representatives. Observe work practices. Use a hazard prompt list. Write down what you think your main hazards are. (Use the Record Form).
Work out how likely it is that each hazard might cause an accident or ill health and how serious the consequences might be (in other words, the risk). Consider how many people are exposed to each hazard, how often and for how long? Look particularly at groups with special needs, including young and pregnant workers or those with temporary or permanent disabilities. Study sources of information such as: accident and ill health statistics (in house and sector) and records; legislation and official guidance; workforce experience; evidence of 'near-misses'; manufacturers information. Again, observe workforce practices. Use your judgements about likelihood and consequences of harm occurring to determine whether risks are: trivial; tolerable; moderate; substantial; or intolerable. Prioritise risks to help you determine where you should be putting preventive effort.
Now determine whether or not reasonably practicable control measures are in place for each risk. Check to see that they actually reduce risks to a tolerable level and/or that they comply with relevant legislation and/or official guidance or other standards. Improve where necessary. Always go for risk avoidance, control at source or risk reduction before selecting controls which rely only on use of personal protective equipment and/or training. Take account of employee's personal characteristics. Also ensure that adequate emergency arrangements are in place (for example, first aid or evacuation procedures) in case controls should fail. Decide if you need health surveillance to assess fitness for work or to look for early signs of health damage.
Make sure that competent people and appropriate procedures are in place so that control measures continue to be effective i.e. necessary supervision and work authorisation; instruction; information and training; co-operation and communication; maintenance programmes; inspections; plus investigation of accidents/problems and near misses!
Record your findings in writing (if you employ 5 or more people you are obliged to do this by law) and communicate them to employees and others affected.
Review your assessments at least once a year (or sooner if things change) to check that you are achieving adequate risk control. Remember, the aim is to learn from experience (e.g. accident/incident investigations) to ensure that you are addressing all sources of foreseeable harm to your workforce and/or the public - and that you are taking all reasonably practicable steps to prevent it happening.
To help you with step one of your risk assessment programme, develop your own hazard prompt list from these examples of common workplace hazards:
- Slipping, tripping hazards
- Working at height
- Flammable gases and liquids
- Radiation (ionising/non-ionising)
- Biological hazards
- Machinery/work equipment
- Hand tools
- Pressure systems
- Manual handling
- Dust and Fumes
- Confined spaces
- Repetitive manual work
- Extremes of temperature
- Lifting Plant
- Display screen equipment
- Work Station Design
A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm.
Risk is the likelihood of that potential being realised.
Risk Assessment Record Form