Small businesses often have a lot on their plate when it comes to staying competitive in the market. And when it comes to health and safety compliance, small businesses are held to the same rigorous standards as large organisations. However large organisations often have the advantage of bigger budgets and more resources behind them to ensure they meet compliance standards and stay up to date with workplace health and safety legislation. So how can small businesses handle the pressures of EHS compliance? The answer lies in robust risk assessment.
Risk assessments not only help small businesses comply with the law, they also protect workers and the integrity of the business itself. They need to be completed before any employees carry out work which could present a risk to health and safety.
Risk assessments don’t have to be difficult or arduous processes. They are essentially a documented exercise in logic. Here is our recommendation for how to best carry out a risk assessment in your small business:
1. Identify hazards
Physically walk around your workplace and examine the way your employees conduct their work. Talk to employees about hazards they have come across. Your staff are the eyes and ears of your business so be sure to tap into that well of knowledge.
2. Identify who and what is at risk
Once you understand what the hazard is, identify any and all parties who could potentially be harmed or affected by it. Also identify what is at risk for the continuity of your business. For example, will the risk affect productivity in the short and long term? Will it influence the delivery of a new product/service you plan to roll out to customers? Will it affect the customer?
3. Decide on control measures
What can be done to remove the hazard completely, or control the risk so that the likelihood of injury is as low as possible? A common problem with control measures is that after some time, people forget why a control was put in place in the first instance, or they may even forget that it is a control, believing instead of that “this is the way things have always been done.” This can result in the control becoming ineffective or the control becoming a new risk in itself!
So to mitigate this problem, it’s important that the control is mapped against the risk so that everyone involved can clearly see and understand what the control is, what the risk is and how the control mitigates the risk.
4. Take accurate records
For legal reasons, you’ll need to keep accurate records of the hazards identified and the steps taken to mitigate risks. If an injury should occur and result in a Workcover claim, you’ll need this documentation, so make sure it is detailed and protected. Be sure to also keep a record of any time a control has failed. Record the cause of the failure and what actions have been taken to prevent future failure.
5. Review and update
Think of how much your business changes in order to adapt to market fluctuations, competitor activity and customer needs. With every change comes a potential for new hazards, or for existing risks to require different control measures. So a process of regular reviews must be in place to stay on top of things. Updates to records should be managed promptly. A risk assessment should never be done and then filed away; it is a dynamic document that needs to be revisited regularly.
Risk assessment is a crucial aspect of risk management, which in turn is important for the protection of small businesses. It is a good idea to nominate someone from your business to attend risk assessment training so that they are competent in the identification of hazards, what compliance should look like, and what legislation is currently in place.