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Health and safety requirements are essential for any employer. Before putting in place satisfactory precautions and measures, a detailed risk assessment needs to be done.

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The Health and Safety Executive gives good guidance for employers, including specific examples. Start with the following five-point plan.

Identify Hazards

Take a long hard look at the workplace to assess potential hazards that may harm employees, full- or part-time, contractors or visitors. Use these headings to identify the specific areas.

•       Physical – lifting, posture/constant strains, tripping or slipping, noise, dust, machinery, equipment, computers, heat/cold;
•       Mental – long hours, excessive pressure, high-need clients, isolation or bullying;
•       Chemical – asbestos, solvents, aerosols, pollution;
•       Biological – exposure to diseases and contagion.

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Who and How?

Taking each category, write down who might be exposed to each and how would it happen. Look at each location/environment where staff could be exposed. Special responsibilities are required for young, disabled or night/shift-workers and pregnant women.

Be sensible. What is relevant to your business? For example, in a supermarket environment risks are prominent in lifting, slips and tripping from spillages and stock in the store-room and on the shop floor, as well as repetitive strain at the checkouts. Potentially, there’s also violence and abuse from customers and intruders, especially at night.

Call centres need special attention to the work stations, proper equipment and regular breaks. Home risks need to be assessed on-site for home care workers for personal safety. Factories have much industrial equipment such as galvanised steel spiral duct and other equipment.

Assess the Risk and Take Action

Grade each potential scenario as to the likelihood of it causing harm, and prioritise the more serious for reducing the risk via action. Using the galvanised steel spiral duct example, is there a heat hazard or sharp edges? Some risk almost inevitably remains, so assess these as high, medium or low.

Prepare a Record

Employers with over five staff are required to keep a record, but it is good practice for your own use, as well as sharing with your employees. You need to identify the risk and action taken and refer to it regularly for updating.

Review the Risk Assessment

Monitor the safe working practices you have put in place, and ensure they are enforced. Keep it up to date with any changes such as new equipment.


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