The systematic management of risks not only helps your employees to be safer and healthier; it also boosts their productivity. Risk assessments are one of the best tools businesses have for protecting their employees.
Simply put, a risk assessment is a step-by-step process that identifies potential hazards in the workplace.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS) requires that businesses identify and eliminate risks “so far as is reasonably practicable.” Even if your business has previously conducted a risk assessment, it’s wise to review and update these regularly. After all, processes, equipment, industry standards and employees change. Operating in line with current best practices will prevent harm and promote a culture of safety in your workplace.
The following tips can help you to conduct a better risk assessment for your business.
Identify the Hazards
Hazards vary greatly from business to business. The hazards inherent in office work are very different from the hazards faced by machinists or construction workers. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate the hazards faced by all employees in your unique workplace.
“Hazards” and “risks” are different. A hazard is “something with the potential to cause harm.” Hazards may include slippery steps, doors that close too quickly and too forcefully, or water that runs unexpectedly hot. A risk is “the likelihood of that potential harm being realised.” How likely is it that someone could slip on the steps or have their fingers slammed in the door?
There are several ways you can identify hazards. As a minimum, conduct a site walk-through and engage employees with surveys and feedback requests. Ensure you classify hazards according to their nature, whether they be physical, mental, chemical or biological.
Identify Potential Victims
Once you’ve identified hazards, consider who in the workplace may be harmed. Full-time employees, part-time employees, contractors, suppliers, visitors, clients and even members of the public - any person who interacts with your site is susceptible to hazards.
Once potential victims have been identified for each hazard, you can begin to address them strategically. In some cases, you may only need to look to internal measures like employee training. For others cases, when your potential victims are external stakeholders like customers and contractors, your risk management will need to look to alternative methods.
With the hazards and potential victims identified, it’s time to take action. Hazards can be managed in two ways: remove them entirely, or control them to minimise the likelihood of injury.
Let’s return to one of the previously mentioned hazards: water that runs unexpectedly hot. The simplest way to minimise the risk of burns would be to lower the temperature on the water heater. Not only does this solution remove the hazard, but it’s also much easier than other alternatives such as producing warning signs or training your employees. However, a simplistic solution that removes all risk will not be viable in all situations. Ensure you classify risk levels and implement solutions that achieve a “low” risk rating.
Most businesses are legally required to record the findings of their risk assessment. Legality aside, documenting your findings will be helpful in several ways. It provides an enduring report of risk assessment and control, which can guide your risk minimisation in the future. Using a template or digital checklist will help you to create a professional and thorough risk assessment that can be easily updated and reviewed.
As we’ve mentioned previously, few workplaces stay the same year in and year out. Therefore, it’s important to review and update your risk assessment process on a regular basis.
Make your risk assessments easy and effective by using mobile health and safety software.
Use a Risk Assessment Template
A risk assessment template can be a great place to start in improving how your business manages its OHS responsibilities. Download your free copy of our Risk Assessment Template below:
Risk and Safety Templates
For strategic safety professionals.
Sign up to get Vault Intel articles delivered to your inbox.