If you’re running a small business one of the most important things to think about is the health and safety of your employees. Completing a risk assessment is the best way to protect your employees and your business as it helps you to identify the potential dangers to your employees and put measures in place to prevent them.
Putting together a risk assessment is a relatively simple process. The first step is to identify the hazards in your workplace. This can be achieved independently by speaking to employees about risks they face and simply looking around the workplace and making a note of anything that can reasonably cause harm. There are also a number of online resources which list common risks in most workplaces that you may not have considered. The Health and Safety Executive has some excellent good practice advice divided up by industry.
Alternatively, you could use an independent company to come in and assess the risks for you. This is usually the safer option for high risk workplaces as these companies will have plenty of experience and will likely spot risks that you may well have missed if attempting to complete a risk assessment independently. Many SMEs fear to take this approach as they worry that the costs will be prohibitive but this is not always the case. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (part of the Department of Labor, offers free on-site consultations to assist small and medium sized businesses across the US to identify potential workplace hazards and devise injury and illness prevention programs.
Once the hazards have been identified, the next step is to think about how to take action to make them safer. If the hazard can be removed altogether then this is usually the best course of action. However, if it cannot, then there are a number of steps you can consider to make it safer; choosing a less risky alternative like changing the types of materials you use, preventing people from going near the hazard using safety barriers or guards, giving workers protective equipment, providing first aid equipment and providing health and safety training. For example, blast and paint manufacturer Airblast AFC take additional safety measures on every project they complete including designing equipment to accommodate seismic requirements, adding safety railings and ladder cages, equipping operators with blast helmets and protective clothing, providing full training on proper use of equipment and providing lock-out capabilities for servicing equipment to isolate electrical components.
The next step is to implement and record these actions. It’s a good idea to record your findings as this will form a good basis for health and safety training when new staff come on board and will help to ensure that safety measures remain in place. There are lots of examples and templates for risk assessments online which will help you to record you findings and the steps you have taken in a clear and logical fashion. It’s important to keep your risk assessment up to date so it’s a good idea to plan a yearly review. You should also update the risk assessment immediately if there are any major changes in the workplace (e.g. new equipment).
Failing to take reasonable action to prevent accidents can result in serious harm to staff as well as loss of business and taking these simple steps can help to mitigate unnecessary risks. It is your responsibility as the employer to ensure the correct safety measures are in place or you could face legal action which could seriously damage your company’s reputation. Protecting your workers is ultimately protecting your business and risk assessment is the key to safeguarding both.
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