With the release of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the focus for businesses shifted. Where it was originally on identifying and controlling hazards, the focus is now on identifying and controlling risks.

That shift has driven an evolution in how businesses assess their in-house health and safety, introducing concepts like risk registers and effective control measures. In this post, the Smart Safety Solutions team will review the fundamentals of comprehensive hazard and risk assessments

Read on as we explore why these are important, the steps of a risk assessment, and two of the most vital components of this process.

Why are hazard and risk assessments important?

Identifying and controlling risks in your business is one of the most important things you can do to be compliant with the Act. Risks you can’t see are liable to turn into hazards, which then evolve into workplace incidents without effective measures put in place. But risks that have been carefully identified and catalogued can’t surprise you, allowing you to create systems and strategies to negate them in daily work life.

This is where hazard and risk assessments come in. These assessments are a vital first step, allowing you to run through every process, procedure, and daily task for potential risks that can evolve into hazards. Once identified, these risks are documented as part of the assessment, allowing you to create effective control measures that staff members can train on.

What are the steps of a hazard and risk assessment?

WorkSafe recommends a 4-step continuous process called Plan-Do-Check-Act. This iterative approach allows businesses to consistently check in on the measures they’ve put in place and adjust them as necessary, rather than putting policies in place and never checking on them again.

At Smart Safety Solutions, we can either walk alongside a business as it conducts its risk assessments or explain the process to them. Let’s explore the intricacies of the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach further.

One: Plan

First thing’s first: Plan. This stage is about identifying the risks in your business that could lead to dangerous workplace incidents. The assessment determines the risks and ranks them in order of potential danger and importance.

There are three categories a risk might fall into:

  •       Acute: can occur immediately and without warning, like a burn or cut.
  •       Chronic: occurs very slowly over a long period of time, like cancer from asbestos exposure.
  •       Catastrophic: unlikely to happen but carries major consequences, like large explosions.

Risks can fall into more than one category at a time, influencing the control measures that need to be put in place.

Two: Do

At this point, we need to focus on creating effective control measures. Once these risks have been identified, control measures are adjustments to processes, procedures, and policies that will eliminate or minimise those risks. The better these measures are, the more workers they will protect at a time.

This is where a key phrase comes into play: ‘as far as is reasonably practicable’. Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) are responsible for eliminating risks where possible and otherwise minimising the risks as much as they can. If a control measure cannot entirely eliminate a risk, the assessment should clarify this.

Three: Check

Once the measures are in place, the work isn’t done! From there, it’s important to implement the means for your workers to report incidents or concerns about health and safety easily. This is all about embracing the power of continuous improvement to refine your processes as time goes on.

A big part of this stage is to stay in touch with your workforce as much as possible. As the ones on the floor following the processes day to day, they’ll have the most insight into what works and what doesn’t. As new policies roll out, open up the pipelines and ensure you touch base often to hone the policies.

Four: Act

Finally, when lessons are learned from the ‘Check’ stage, the ‘Act’ stage is about using those insights to review the effectiveness of the control measures you’ve instituted. This looks like cataloguing incidents, near incidents, and concerns from the workforce to find gaps in those measures and fix things before they evolve into dangerous hazards.

With these four stages in motion, you’ll have a comprehensive and ever-evolving understanding of your workplace risks and the ways you can minimise them. When it comes to workplace safety, there’s nothing better. However, this can be very time-consuming and incredibly daunting to implement at the outset.

Our experienced team can assist you with our knowledge gained over twenty-five years of assessing risks and hazards for businesses all around the country. We offer a comprehensive hazard and risk assessment service, ensuring you have practical controls in place to minimise dangerous incidents. 

Talk to Smart Safety Solutions.

Get in touch with one of our consultants today for a free, confidential chat to discuss the biggest risks facing your business. We’re on hand to review your business, develop a risk register, and document your effective control measures for the best results.