Going back to basics... risk assessment for all
Sheila Pantry OBE
Perhaps the simplest health and safety message is the concept of risk assessment - with its five basic steps that aims to help you assess health and safety risks.
Wherever you are in the World a risk assessment is an important step in protecting you, your colleagues, your workers and your business, as well as complying with the law. It helps you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace - the ones with the potential to cause real harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks, for example ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly so people do not slip, or cupboard drawers are kept closed to ensure people do not trip. For most, that means simple, cheap and effective measures to ensure your most valuable asset - your workforce - is protected.
The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as 'reasonably practicable'.
What is risk assessment?
A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.
Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and affect your business too if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace so that you put in place a plan to control the risks.
How to assess the risks in your workplace
Follow the five steps:
- Identify the hazards
- Decide who might be harmed and how
- Evaluate your findings and decide on precaution
- Record your findings and implement them
- Review your assessment and update if necessary
Don't overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. You probably already know whether, for example, you have employees who move heavy loads and so could harm their backs, or where people are most likely to slip or trip. If so, check that you have taken reasonable precautions to avoid injury.
If you run a small organisation and you are confident you understand what's involved, you can do the assessment yourself. You don't have to be a health and safety expert.
If you work in a larger organisation, you could ask a health and safety adviser to help you. If you are not confident, get help from someone who is competent. In all cases, you should make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. They will have useful information about how the work is done that will make your assessment of the risk more thorough and effective. But remember, you are responsible for seeing that the assessment is carried out properly.
When thinking about your risk assessment, remember:
- a hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer etc;
- the risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.
FIREINF and OSH UPDATE - are you using them? If not, why not?
More information on risk assessments and health and safety at work - not only from Europe but around the World, including advice and guidance, legislation and much more can be found by checking out the OSH UPDATE electronic collection of information sources. Seekers will find a wealth of authoritative and validated advice from around the world. There are over 800,000 records in 18 authoritative databases - with thousand of full text links. Best practices, case studies, journal articles, reports and knowledge of systems are in OSH UPDATE www.oshupdate.com.
Also you may find FIREINF www.fireinf.com that is the world's premier collection of validated, authoritative fire and fire related information and contains two major collections. For those individuals and organisations that do not subscribe to a range of journals/magazines this is one way of ensuring that the latest news, developments and trends are available.
The 5 Full Text Collection databases containing thousands of pages of full text information (about 12,000 pages added in 2007) and The Bibliographic Collection has 7 databases which contain over 267,000 records to journal articles, guidance and advice, circulars, reports, conference proceedings, research reports, statistics and codes of practice from worldwide sources, all of which may be easily accessed. One of the databases - from the British Standards Institution - contains references to over 4000 fire and fire related standards.
This long established collection started in 1997 as Fire Worldwide and then expanded into Fire, Emergency and Preparedness Worldwide. From 2007 the collection continues to expand with the new software and host platform as Fireinf and aims to help all those seeking information on all aspects of fire, emergency and preparedness management principles, fire risk assessment, good practices and research.
Fireinf is continuously enlarged as new information is published.
Why not try OSH UPDATE and FIREINF for yourself? Take a 15 day free trial to these collection!
OSHWORLD - your portal to some of the best OSH web sites in the world
It is always good to review health, safety, chemical, fire and environment procedures on a regular basis. It is also important that the practices and systems in the workplace are constantly reviewed and if necessary, improved. This review may also indicate training requirements and updates and re-thinking how systems and services can be improved. This is where the free-of charge OSHWORLD can help you. Look at the latest additions to the Diary of Events and you will see plans have been made already worldwide up to the end of 2008 and beyond to have training courses, symposiums and conferences in many places in the world on a wide range of subjects.
Remember that even if you cannot attend these many events, speakers and organisers are often willing to share their knowledge. Look at the details - where possible, we add in the web sites of these events so you can request further information. And do let me know if you are organising any OSHE events so that I can add them to the Diary.
OSHWORLD's FOCUS this month looks at the Healthy workplaces - a top priority in Europe: Reducing accidents and diseases by better assessing workplace risks!
Try these Practical, Affordable Solutions for your health, safety, fire and environment information needs from Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd.
In addition to the above we hope that you find the information in OSHWORLD useful in your daily work. Globally there are continually new titles, news items, new products so remember to look at the News to find the latest information from a number of worldwide sources.
Use OSHWORLD as your portal to many hundreds of validated and authoritative web sites which you can find in the Country and Subject links we offer. New subject topics are constantly brought together on web sites, e.g. avian flu and the workplace.
Most information services have a reference shelf where you can quickly check the reference sources - so OSHWORLD brings you a collection of Reference sources and also teaches you how to Search the Internet.
Click onto the various Bookshops to order any new document as they are being published. Many of these Bookshops have a constant stream of new titles available.
Please send any suggestions or comments about OSHWORLD - your portal to validated and authoritative information. Remember also to look at our other really useful sites - www.sheilapantry.com and why not make a free entry about your company's products in www.shebuyersguide.com
Don't work harder - work smarter! Be ahead of the game.
Well did you have a zero accident, incident-free and healthy
year in 2007 in your workplace? Some would argue that this is not possible!
But keep on trying again in 2008!