Risk assessment is a fundamental component of an effective health and safety management system and many health and safety regulations have explicit requirements for risk assessment.
Centurion Alba’s Chartered Safety & Health Practitioners are experts in the risk assessment process and this article looks at the practical application of risk assessment and its part in the risk management process. We also look at our services available to support organisations with risk management expertise.
Before we get stuck in, check out this brilliantly engaging TEDx talk by Will Gadd as he talks about the Three Simple, Fun and Effective Tools to Help Manage Risk. The video perfectly explains the concept of risk management. Don’t forget to come back!
What is a risk assessment?
Before we dive into what a risk assessment is (and isn’t), lets first take a look at a few important definitions:
A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm. This might be a hazardous substance, machinery or an exposed edge.
A risk is the likelihood or potential for harm from a hazard being realised. Risk is a construct of two components, the ‘likelihood of harm‘ and the ‘consequence of harm‘. For instance, a risk could be of low-likelihood but high consequence (think plane crash), but it could also be high-likelihood and low-consequence (think a paper cut working in the mail room).
Residual risk is the subjective amount of remaining risk after considering any risk control measures that have been implemented.
It’s very important to distinguish between hazard and risk, these terms are often confused.
Now, back to risk assessment. In the context of occupational health and safety, a risk assessment is a systematic look at hazards in the work and identifying which hazards may cause harm, and then an assessment (and usually grading) of the potential for harm and the consequence of that harm.
The purpose of the risk assessment is to identify things in the workplace which may cause us harm which should then lead to the implementation of risk control measures designed to eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level.
Why do i need a risk assessment?
One of the most important clauses in all health and safety legislation is section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974:
It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.Section 2 (1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The importance of this clause to the risk assessment process is the term ‘so far as is reasonably practicable‘ (ALARP). Although it may be physically possible to eliminate a particular risk, this term essentially means that we can weight the risk against the sacrifice to reduce it such as time, cost and effort. Where the risk is negligible and the costs to reduce it substantial, we may not need to take further action. An important part of the risk assessment process is identifying what measures are reasonably practicable to implement and reduce the risk posed. Bear in mind that some risks will never be acceptable and ‘costing too much’ isn’t an excuse.
Other regulations are much more specific in their requirements around risk assessment. Its the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 that explicitly specify the need to make a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees at work and others which that work may affect. Some of the other regulations that explicitly state the need for risk assessment include:
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
- The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
- The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
- The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
- The Work at Height Regulations 2005
As we can see, the requirement to carry out risk assessment can be seen throughout health and safety legislation.
Failure to carry-out a risk assessment and implement suitable and sufficient risk control measures is usually a criminal offence and punishable by up to two-years in prison, and/or and unlimited fine. The enforcement of these statutory duties are taken very serious by the regulator and prosecutions for the failure to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk are far from uncommon.
5 steps to risk assessment
It’s common to talk about the 5 steps of risk assessment and by breaking the process down into these steps the process is simplified and can be carried out relatively easily.
- Identify the hazards.
- Decide who might be harmed and the mechanism of that harm.
- Evaluate the risk by making an assessment of the likelihood and potential severity of that harm. Decide upon suitable precautions to mitigate this risk.
- Make a record of the findings and implement them.
- Review the risk assessment whenever something changes and update it if it become reasonably practicable to reduce risk further.
Risk assessment example
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published many example risk assessments, relevant to a number of different work activities and industries. This is a good place to start when creating your own risk assessment and reviewing ‘best-practice’.
Competence & Risk Assessment Training
Regulation 7 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires that employers appoint competent health and safety assistance. Those appointed to help a business with health and safety matters such as risk assessment, must have sufficient training, experience and knowledge. Not all businesses have this resource internal to their organisation and instead elect to retain the service of an professional external to their company, to support them in their health and safety duties. Centurion Alba provides a Competent Person Service to hep businesses fulfil this requirement.
Risk assessment doesn’t always require expert help though and sometimes all that is required is a good understanding of the process and knowing where to find the right information.
Another useful research published by the HSE is their Safety Made Simple series and their guidance on carrying out risk assessment.
Centurion Alba also have available a short online training course which covers an introduction to the risk assessment process.
Risk assessment help
Centurion Alba supports small and medium businesses in the risk assessment and the implementation of suitable and sufficient risk control measures. We’re here if you need one-off advice or even ongoing support with your companies risk management processes. We have our own expert risk management practitioners Chartered by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and they are waiting for your call today.
Free 20 Minute Consultation
Get in touch with us today to discuss your organisations needs. Our expert advisers are on-hand and ready to help.