Not every individual hazard needs to be assessed, as most organisations address risk assessment at two levels, generic and specific.
Generic risk assessments cover hazards or activities that are common throughout the workplace, while specific assessments address particular hazards related to specific tasks, procedures, equipment, locations, etc.
Once a hazard has been identified, risk assessment should generally be carried out in four steps:
- Decide who might be harmed and how.
- Evaluate the risks and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more needs to be done.
- Record your findings.
- Review your assessment and revise it if necessary.
In assessing risks, you should consider all types of staff including apprentices, trainees, young workers, new and expectant mothers and also those who may not be directly affected by the process. This may include domestic or security staff, contractors or members of the public.
Evaluate the risks to which individuals might be exposed and classify them as Low/Medium/High based on consistent criteria appropriate to your activities. This classification will be an indication of the priority with which the risk needs to be addressed. Where risks are already controlled, monitor the effectiveness of the controls to decide whether they are sufficient. Where the risk to individuals is thought to be medium or high, additional control measures must always be considered.
To achieve consistency, it is best to adopt a standardised approach, for example, see this general risk assessment template and guidance.
While a standard template can be used for almost any risk, it greatly helps if you have access to specific templates and guidance, such as those provided by the Doxonomy toolkit, covering particular hazards, such as:
- Compressed Gas Cylinderse
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
- Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres (DSEAR)
- Display Screen Equipment Self-Assessment
- General Purpose Risk Assessment Template (Risk Matrix)
- Hand-Arm Vibration
- Lone Working
- Manual Handling
- New and Expectant Mothers
- PPE Assessment
- Slips Trips and Falls
- Stress at Work - Risk Assessment by a Manager
- Working at Home Safely
- Young Persons
Having evaluated the risk, decide what controls are necessary to reduce the risks to individuals and to comply with any statutory requirements (compliance with statutory requirements is a minimum level of control). It is often useful to seek out best practice advice, perhaps from your trade association or the appropriate regulator.
In controlling risks you should follow a hierarchical approach, starting with avoiding the hazard if at all possible:
- Avoid the hazard - can the hazard be avoided or altered to reduce the likelihood or risk? Substitute or replace the hazard.
- Procedural controls – can the procedure be altered to avoid or reduce the risk? Can the individual be removed / distanced from the risk? Could the activity be carried out at a time that would have a lesser impact on others?
- Engineering / mechanical controls – can engineering or mechanical aids be used to avoid or reduce the risk?
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – where the above measures do not fully remove the risk, PPE should be considered. Identify the specific type of PPE necessary.
- Emergency procedures – set procedures to follow in the event of things going wrong. e.g. an accident or incident.
- Health surveillance – where one cannot be 100% confident in the control measures put in place, should individual’s health be monitored?
- Where engineering controls are used e.g. local exhaust ventilation (LEV), guarding, interlocks, safety valves etc. ensure that they are adequately utilised and maintained. Many will require specific checks as described in legislation, HSE Guidance or British Standards publications.
Record your findings
Record the significant hazards and conclusions and any Safe System of Working (SSW) derived from the Risk Assessment.
Review your assessment
The assessment should be reviewed periodically to ensure it remains relevant and effective and also if there are any significant changes to the activity i.e. new procedures, substances, machinery, or if there are changes in legislation or an accident, incident or near-miss are reported.