A risk assessment is a systematic process designed to identify hazards and risk factors with the potential to cause harm. Risk can fall into several categories — business specific risks that are unique to your organization, and general risks that are known to particular industries and activities. There are also risks that are unexpected and situational — such as ones that cropped up during COVID-19. The process is made up of three key components: hazard identification, risk analysis and evaluation, and finally, risk control. Via a thorough evaluation of the surrounding environment, a risk assessment should be able to identify situations and processes that could cause harm, especially to people. The goal of a risk assessment is to eliminate or minimize the risk involved by introducing effective control measures. As such, one creates a safer, better workplace. Risk assessments are intended to be used anytime there is a change in environment, machinery, process, or when a major hazard is identified.
Risk assessments serve as confirmation that at any given time, the entire workforce is aware of the hazards in play and what mitigation strategies are in place to help reduce that risk. Often, it’s impossible to get rid of all hazardous environments, but certain risks can be effectively mitigated through a strategy safety plan and approach. Not only do risk assessments ensure safety in the workplace, but organizations will reap the benefits of employee loyalty and reduced compensation claims.
A risk assessment mandates a thorough evaluation of a workplace for both existing and potential hazards. This starts by creating a list of hazards and current control measures. Consult teams that are impacted by these measures as they would have valuable insights as to the severity of the hazards and the effectiveness of the controls. Observe tasks as they are carried out by teams and review accident, incident and near-miss records. Next, analyse the degree of risk at play. Pre-empt how different hazardous scenarios could play out and the resulting injuries. Take a look at legislated requirements, industry codes, health and safety materials and product documentation. Create a risk matrix to determine what hazards to control first. Finally, work through a hierarchy of control measures to reduce risk, starting with elimination and ending with PPE.
Risk assessments are often legally mandated and the primary risk management tool in workplaces. In many industries, you’ll find that there specific legislative requirements that apply. A risk assessment should be conducted by a single person or team with in-depth knowledge of the situation being evaluated. Supervisors or dedicated safety managers are often the point person in these scenarios.