Calculating Risks in the Workplace #1. Assessing your workplace, finding those hazards
In a two-part series, we will be looking at ways of how you can identify and evaluate potential risks and develop a plan to proactively approach protecting yourself, your business and your fellow colleagues.
If you have been around busy factories and businesses as much as I have then you will, at some point, been privy to the odd accident, either you witnessed something or it happened to you. Whatever your job role is, it's likely that you'll need to make a decision that will involve a risk of some type.
Risk is generally constructed of two parts, the likelihood of something happening, and the outcome if something does indeed go wrong. The risks many of us may encounter are sometimes not easy to find, so preparing for it and managing the respective outcome could be costly in a number of ways.
A risk analysis is an incredibly valuable and likewise essential tool for anyone whose profession involves an element of risk, be that physical or a business risk. Understanding the various risks you may face helps you to manage them and reduce the impact that they could have on you and your business. We will be exploring the identification and control of physical risks to persons in this two-part series.
Risk analysis is not about generating vast swaths of paperwork, but instead is more about developing measures to control any of the potential risks in your workplace. A properly performed analysis will help you decide whether you have covered all then avenues you need to. Concentrate on the real risks in your business, including those that could cause ill health, like solvent fumes, for example, anything that could possibly be harmful needs to be identified and listed.
There are a number of ways you could approach this, breaking it down into a series of points like those shown below should cover most of the aspects required in many workplaces, the approach is up to you as long as it is thorough.
- Find the hazards
- What are the risks and what are the precautions?
- Who could be hurt and how?
- Gather and record your findings.
- Check your risk analysis and update regularly
You don’t have to be a health and safety expert to perform a risk analysis if you fully understand the operational aspects of a particular role, but in some areas it may prove beneficial to ask for help, or where there is a legal requirement to do so. When evaluating your workplace for potential risks remember that a hazard can be anything that can cause harm, working at heights, using various solvents, hand tools, electricity and so on. What you are looking for concerning risk analysis, is the potential for harm and injury in the working environment, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be from those risks, and preventing them from happening.
Finding the hazards
Obviously, one of the primary aspects of any risk analysis is to accurately identify all of the possible hazards that you may find in your workplace. When starting out a good place to begin is to simply walk around where you work and think about the possible hazards. What is there within the production processes, or perhaps within your office environment that could cause harm? The activities people perform, the tools they use, their working environment, what could lead to injury or harm their health?
Working in the same environment every day could make you a little complacent to some of the hazards which you have simply grown accustomed to, here are a few pointers to help jog your memory.
- Datasheets, user guides and manufacturer instructions can be a good source for pointing out various hazards.
- Check Previous accident logs or incidents of ill-health, there may be a trend
- See if any maintenance or changes in production processes has occurred
- Consider the long-term effect of the working environment such as noise and exposure to chemicals etc.
- Visit the HSE website. They offer guidance on hazards and how to control them
There are many tasks that are performed in numerous places of employment with pretty obvious hazards, such as working at height or with machinery such as milling machines and lathes, or perhaps the petroleum industry. Try to evaluate all the possible hazards that may be prevalent in your workplace, ask for opinions from people from different areas of the business perhaps, their outside view may prove beneficial, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Who might be harmed and how?
You need to consider how people may become injured or harmed in some way in your working environment, also you must consider people who may be on site as well as regular staff members, such as contractors or visitors. With all the hazards you have gathered, you need to establish who might be exposed to them in the workplace and place them into groups. You could classify these groups into areas such as ‘Site Visitors’, ‘Warehouse Personnel’ this should help you define specific pockets of risk and control them better.
There are elements of the workforce that have specific requirements, expectant mothers, young people, people with disabilities and so on, you can find a comprehensive list of safety requirements for specific employee types here. You will also have to consider the general public as well if your business activities offer a threat to them, be as comprehensive as you can be in your considerations.