Risk is the potential of something undesirable becoming a reality.

There are many forms of risk – economic risk, risk to health, security and criminal damage risks – and there are ways to mitigate risk, such as insurance, forward planning, and using good business judgement.

In this post we’re going to be looking at the kind of risks your workplace exposes workers to and how to mitigate and minimize those risks through the creation of risk assessments.

Awareness is power when it comes to work place risks. Knowing what your workplace risks are will put you and your employees in a better position to make sure that something undesirable doesn’t become a reality.

How do you identify risk?

The greater your business can endanger the lives of workers and the public, the greater the amount of risk assessment and mitigation you need to put in place.

But to really get to grips with how your business poses a risk to your workers and the public, you should seek to look through their eyes. Walk around your business premises, inside and out, and identify things which could cause harm. Engage with your employees and ask them if they have any concerns about the safety of themselves or another.

There are also more subtle risks which are more important, and require additional attention to the detail. Are there any links to sicknesses and the work place which might be mitigated in house? Are your employees exposed to any chemicals (laser printer toner is a classic example) – the risks of which will already be spelled out in detail on the manufacturer’s instructions? Are your employees exposed to heavy and dangerous machinery, or noise?

Remember, like in the case of noise or daily chemical exposure, risk can be incremental. Just because the risk becomes a reality in 20 years doesn’t mitigate your liability.

There are other factors to take in to account: Do you engage with young workers, who may be less experienced or unaware of risks? What about children? How might your business processes pose a risk to someone who is pregnant or has a disability?

The important lessons to take away in assessing risk is identify what the hazards are and decide who might be harmed and how. Engage with your staff at this stage – they probably know their work place better than you!

Evaluation of risks

Now that you have identified your risks, you will need to evaluate them based on the probability they will occur, decide whether the risk can be eliminated or, if not, mitigated, log your actions, and review periodically.

During your evaluation stage you are looking determine whether the hazard you have identified can be removed altogether. For example, if you currently use one chemical, could you eliminate the risk by switching to an alternative? Does that bring with it unintended negative consequences (is the new chemical less effective? Does the other chemical have its own unique set of risks? Is no alternative available?)

Other ways to eliminate or minimize the risk include providing employees with protective equipment (where appropriate) or preventing access by unauthorized to dangerous materials by those who are not trained to use them.

Any findings you make about the assessment of risk in your work place should be recorded against the steps you’ve put in place to eliminate or minimize the risk. You should share your findings and steps taken with your employees so they know how to minimize their exposure to undesirable outcomes.

Risk assessments for companies with less than five staff do not need to be written down, but it’s good practice to do so anyway.

Although no amount of planning with eliminate or mitigate all risk, risk assessments must be suitable for your industry and sufficient to handle the majority of risks. At any point, you may need to demonstrate that you’ve made appropriate checks, identified affected parties, you’ve handled significant hazards, you’ve taken reasonable and proportionate steps to ensure any residual risk is low, and you’ve involved all parties in the process.

You should ensure you have logged any temporary fixes you’ve put in place and create deadlines for more reliable controls and how you intend to mitigate the long terms risks which could harm the health and safety of your employees.

Importantly, review and update if you need to!

As business processes develop, new equipment becomes available, or new stakeholders become involved with your business, each will bring about their own unique risks and hazards. You will need to identify these new risks and hazards through a review process and update your risk assessment if necessary.

Points to take away

1. Risk is the potential of something undesirable becoming a reality.

2. Awareness of risk and hazards in the work place will put you in a better position to prevent that reality

3. You need to identify what risks your business poses to your workers by looking at it through their eyes – walk around your business and see what they see. Take notes as you do.

4. You need to engage with your employees and ask them to identify a hazard that might become a danger to themselves or another.

5. Evaluate each of the points you have considered – can you eliminate that risk? If not, can you minimize it?

6. Although your evaluation and steps taken won’t be perfect, they should be suitable for your industry and sufficient to catch the majority of cases.

7. As fixes are put in place, log them in your risk assessment and inform your workers about new changes in process

8. Periodically review your processes as business practice or equipment changes or new stakeholders become involved in your business.

Craig

Craig Ineson is a law graduate of the University of Liverpool, current student of international business law at master’s level, a passionate restaurant reviewer, and experienced content writer.

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