Compliance 101: What’s the point of risk assessments?

One thing we are often asked about is the humble, but oh so essential, risk assessment. People just don’t see the importance or even the point. I suppose, if you haven’t been told why they are so valuable, you might see a risk assessment as a useless exercise or even… health and safety gone mad! *Dun dun duuun*

So, what is a risk assessment?

In brief, a risk assessment is the process of identifying risks and hazards that exist (or might come to occur) in your workplace, and the reasonable steps you can take to minimise harm and reduce or remove risk to employees, visitors, customers etc.

A hazard can be anything from electricity and chemicals to open drawers and objects blocking escape routes. It’s not just physical harm though, things like stress and burnout or loneliness and isolation are as much of a threat to the mental health and wellbeing of your people.

Do I have to do risk assessments?

Employers are required by law to carry out risk assessments. If you have more than 5 employees, you must also write them down and keep a record.

No matter the number of employees in your business, it’s good practice to write out your assessments – oftentimes this is where you spot gaps in your thinking and find issues that need to be addressed.

How do you do a risk assessment?

The thing about risk assessments is that you have probably already done them, you just didn’t think of what you were doing that way.

Say you walk into the office one morning and see that a colleague has plugged their monitor into a socket far away from their desk, leaving the wire snaking across the floor. You know someone could trip, so you plug it in somewhere that’s out of the way. That is a risk assessment, and a reasonable step to prevent harm.

“A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and think about any hazards… what is it about the activities, processes or substances used that could injure employees or harm their health?”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

All you need to do is consider the chance (whether high or low) that someone might be harmed by a hazard of some kind in your workplace, and the extent of the harm this could cause. Think about the reasonable steps you can take to reduce or remove these risks from your workplace and then put your plan into action. That’s it.

Risk assessments aren’t meant to cause unnecessary headaches or lead to reams of paperwork. This is simply a process designed to give order to the safety measures and considerations you need. They’re really helpful and go a long way to keeping everyone’s limbs where they should be. Which is nice.

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