The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a campaign to show that risk assessments are not complicated, or tasks that can only be carried out by experts.

The Executive and partner organizations across the UK will be hosting events in early October and will focus on giving small and medium-sized companies the advice and tools they need to make risk assessments easier.

The events will be delivered in partnership with several organizations, including the Trades Union Congress, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health. They will feature a range of activities for companies during the European Week for Safety and Health at Work, which begins on 19 October.

Companies that attend the events will be shown an electronic template that combines the requirements of a health and safety policy, risk assessment and written record of health and safety arrangements, within a single document. Used along with the example risk assessments and a new example policy statement, the HSE hopes the event can help businesses meet their health and safety duties using minimum resource.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “We’re delighted to be working with our social partners to promote risk assessments and show that they don’t involve reams and reams of paperwork.

What to do

To do a risk assessment, you need to understand what, in your business, might cause harm to people and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent that harm. Once you have decided that, you need to identify and prioritize putting in place, appropriate and sensible control measures.

Start by:

  • identifying what can harm people in your workplace
  • identifying who might be harmed and how
  • evaluating the risks and deciding on the appropriate controls, taking into account the controls you already have in place
  • recording your risk assessment
  • reviewing and updating your assessment

You do not necessarily need specific training or qualifications to carry out a risk assessment. 

As an employer, however, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.

You could appoint one or a combination of:

  • yourself
  • one or more of your workers
  • someone from outside your business

You may need extra help or advice if you do not have sufficient experience or knowledge in-house. You may also need extra help if the risks are complex:

You may find that there are a number of issues which need action, so you need decide on your priorities for that action. In thinking through your priorities, think about the biggest or most serious risks first.

Control measures

Having identified the priorities, you need to decide on the controls which you will put into place. In doing so, think about the following:

  • long-term solutions to those risks with the worst potential consequences
  • long-term solutions to those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health
  • whether there are improvements that can be implemented quickly, even as a temporary solution until more reliable controls are in place

Remember, the greater the risk the more robust and reliable the control measures will need to be.

Significant risks are those that are not trivial in nature and are capable of creating a real risk to health and safety which any reasonable person would appreciate and would take steps to guard against.

What can be considered as 'insignificant' will vary from site to site and activity to activity, depending on specific circumstances.

Risk vs. hazard

Risk is the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by the hazard, and how serious the harm could be.

A hazard is anything that may cause harm, eg chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, noise etc.

Source: Safety & Health Practitioner