Basic Risk Assessment Essentials

As any company will testify, payouts for injuries to staff or members of the public is a costly process, and in the case of staff injuries loses valuable working hours in the process. To minimize accidents occurring and to adhere to insurance company policies, risks need to identified and mitigating procedures put into place. We take a look at how companies deal with hazards in the workplace by conducting a risk assessment.

A risk assessment is a procedure that has to be carried out in any commercial environment where the practices of a company or an individual may pose a risk to others. These assessments are carried out by everyone from artists exhibiting in a gallery to companies that manufacture toxic chemicals.

The initial part of a risk assessment is to identify the types of hazards that are present. Hazards are classed as anything that may cause illness or injury, over either a long or short time. In an office environment this could be air pollution caused by air conditioning systems, fire hazards or danger of injury from tripping over trailing cables to electrical equipment. In other industries the potential risks may only become evident over a prolonged amount of time, such as exposure to toxic chemicals and the build up that occurs over many years.

Once the risks have been identified and documented, each aspect needs to be given a risk level. This is basically graded as low medium or high. As part of a project, the level of risk can be a deciding factor as to whether or not the project can go ahead. Even if the risks are regarded as high however, there is a chance that mitigating procedures that can be put in place will allow the project to continue.

It is essential that a health and safety officer is able to state what will be done to reduce the risk and what procedures will be implemented should accident, injury or illness occur. To reduce the chances of potential hazards staff can be sent on training courses so heighten their hazard perception and to learn to use equipment responsibly. Learning how to lift heavy items correctly and to ensure adequate safety equipment is used is a common theme in hazard prevention.

Finally, procedures need to be drawn up as to what action would be taken in the event of the risk becoming reality. This could be in the form of fire drills, emergency response and access to first aid equipment. A successful risk assessment ensures that whatever the hazards are, they are minimized thorough awareness and safety procedures to prevent harm to an individual.

Dom Donaldson is a safety expert. Find out more about a Risk Assessment to improve site safety at URS Corp.

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