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How Do We Manage Health and Safety Risks in the Workplace?

It’s a question often asked of health and safety consultants, and it begins with the risk assessment. Conducting a health and safety risk assessment is a requirement of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 as amended in 2003 and 2006. More than that, it is an opportunity to improve and strengthen your business.

The purpose of the risk assessment is to identify the significant hazards so that you can put in place mitigation measures to prevent accidents from occurring. Less accidents mean less staff turnover, less loss of knowledge of your business, less loss of productivity, increased business reputation, less repair costs of equipment, and most importantly, happy, safe employees who are motivated to work for your business.


So, risk assessment is not just a legal requirement, it also makes good business sense.
As well as the obvious business impacts to be had from managing risk, there are also the financial costs of fines and claims. It is estimated that for every £1 of insured costs, there are £8-36 of uninsured costs. Whilst you can insure for civil claims, you cannot insure against fines. As a business owner of manager, fines are not your only concern. New court guidelines state that negligent employers and managers who blatantly disregard employee safety, could be sentenced to up to 18 years in prison.


Essentially, the risk assessment forms the basis of your health and safety management system. From here arrangements can be put in place to manage the risks to your business undertaking. It can be arranged by location (e.g. workshop, office, etc) or by process (e.g. delivery driving, forklift operation, metal working). It should also be noted, that if site work is required, site specific risk assessments based on the hazards at that site, will also be needed.

Many people find risk assessment a daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you follow these five simple steps to risk assessment in consultation with your workforce:

1. Identify the hazards – this is anything with the potential to cause harm. For example, trailing cable. A slip, trip or fall would be the consequence of the hazard, and not the hazard itself. Ensure you engage the workforce in this exercise. Often those who are undertaking the job are best placed to identify the hazard as they are familiar with the work process. It is also useful to have a fresh set of eyes from someone who may not know your business as well as you. This is where a health and safety consultant can help.


2. Identify who could by harmed and how – consider the workforce and anyone you may come into contact with during the course of undertaking business (e.g. contractors and the public)

3. Evaluate the risks and assess if existing control measures enough, or if more control measures are required – this is evaluating the likelihood of harm arising from the hazard, and analysing if the existing control measures are adequate, or if further controls are required. Again, get the workforce involved. If they come up with control measures they are more likely to buy into the process, and act accordingly.

Mitigation measures should always follow the hierarchy of control:
a. Eliminate the hazard
b. Substitute for a less hazardous process, materials, operation or equipment
c. Engineering controls
d. Administrative controls
e. PPE


4. Record the findings – document the findings and communicate with the workforce.

5. Review and revise as necessary – a review of your risk assessment should take place following any accident or near miss, the introduction of new equipment or hazards, a change in employee circumstances (e.g. pregnant or nursing mothers, illness or injury), following changes in your organisation structure, or following changes in your business practice.

While there is no timescale requirement set by law, it is good practice to review the risk assessment at a minimum, annually. It is imperative that you engage the workforce in this process, just as you did with the initial hazard identification.

Remember, communication is key. This is a two-way process, with the employer engaging with the workforce to help identify hazards and mitigate risk, as well as the employer communicating the outcome of the risk assessment to employees.

So, why not take a look at your risk assessments and ask yourself if they are effective in managing the health, safety and environmental risks of your business. With effective review there are often opportunities for improvement which will benefit your business.

If you require more information on risk assessments or any part of your health, safety and environment management system, please contact Sandford Hodges today on 01843 639711 for a free consultation and to find out how we can help you.