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Workplace Risk Assessment

Workplace Risk Assessment

Workplace risk assessment is fundamental step of any workplace Safety Management System (SMS). A risk assessment is a process used to identify potential hazards and analyze what could happen if a disaster or hazard occurs.


Understanding Risk Assessment

In order to understand ‘risk’ and ultimately ‘risk assessment’ we must perhaps firstly comprehend what constitutes risk and what risk is. Why we, as humans take risks almost every day of our waking lives. We take risks at home, in the office, and certainly on our way to work in the mornings as we undergo the ‘commute’ and face the challenges inherent within.

Haimes (2009), discusses risk as an amalgamation of risk dimensions, but with a more ‘human’ understanding of a problem or ‘risk interpretation’. For example, the crusty ‘old timer’, has a subjective understanding of a system that only ‘he’ understands. To use an example of a ships’ engine, the ‘old boy’ can ‘hear’ the problem. They can almost ‘feel’ the problem, sensing the risk in its continued use as opposed to the new trainee. The new trainee approaches the problem from a ‘text book’ stance. Both individuals are aware of ‘risk’ but each approach the issue from completely different angles.


Risk as an Uncertainty Management

Power (2004), labels risk as ‘uncertainty management’. He goes on to discuss how we try to create ‘constructs’ in which we can work and live. For example, seatbelts, signage, ISO standards etc. Power (2004, p.9) states that “we cannot know the risks we face now or in the future but we must act as if we do”. This is perhaps the whole ‘crux’ of risk management and risk assessment. We ‘plan’ for an outcome, we anticipate it to a certain extent but we can never fully know what its full effect will be.

As previously mentioned, we wear seat-belts, and bikers wear helmets. Unfortunately, that that does not remove the risk of excessive speed or other motorists. We can experience a car crash, we can survive. We exit our vehicles in a state of shock but then we wander onto the motorway and are stuck by a passing vehicle whose driver’s attention has been taken up with their voyeuristic intent to see the carnage of our current situation. That momentary ‘lapse’ in their concentration dooms us. Although we have ‘planned’ for a certain risk, (a car crash), we have not planned for our own immobility or shock, nor the ignorance of outside observers.


Available Solutions

So, what can we do? How do we plan for risk and conduct adequate risk assessment. Can we remove or reduce the factors which precipitate disaster, and stop ourselves and others from for getting hurt? Hollnagel, (2008, p. 172) discuses resilience and how it requires the capacity for anticipation of risk and a management plan to be applied as risks arises. To this end, perhaps the ‘Robson Risk Management Model’ may be adequate and appropriate in this regard.

This model can be used in both a ‘personal’ concept and applied in an organisational context.


Perception of the Risk

The individual or organisation perceives that a risk may be inherent in a certain activity or action.


Risk Identification.

The risk(s) of the activity is ‘identified’ and ‘labelled’ (in the organisational context) with a ‘risk assessment’ form.


Assessing Risk

The risk is ‘assessed’ on the basis of its ‘potentiality’ and ‘gravity’. If we are competent and thoughtful driver, the likelihood that we will experience a car crash might be low, but still exist. The severity however, if we crash, might be catastrophic.


Risk Strategies

Stemming from the risk assessment above, numerous risk strategies are developed with a view to removing the risk even further. This can take the form of ‘avoidance’, transfer, retention or reduction. This is referred to as the ‘HOC’ or hierarchy of controls, and is applied as follows:

Eliminate hazard at source

Elimination of a hazardous material or method. This is a permanent solution which eliminates the offending item completely, however this may not always be a viable scenario. Some hazardous items must be used or worked with in their current state, such as ‘live’ munitions on a range.

Substitute hazard at source.

If it is possible to substitute an item. An example of which is when a military force might use ‘blank rounds’ for exercises and instruction of new entrants. This substitution completely removes the risk of ‘friendly fire’ occurring.

Isolate or enclose the hazard.

An example of this is range practices being conducted ‘only’ on certified and controlled ranges. An adequate security and signalling is there in place to prevent entry to non-firers and to inform others that a shoot is taking place. This allows for the hazard to be successfully isolated and controlled without the possibility of injury.

Engineering controls

Examples of this are the aforementioned security at ranges, flag system of notification and cordon enclosing the range.

Administrative controls

Adequate supply of qualified and experienced range managers ‘in situ’ to manage the firing, observe and enforce safety measures/controls and relieve one another for breaks throughout the day. This allows for fresh, focused and diligent staff to manage the activity.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

The last measure is the use of the correct PPE. On range practices, shooters, range security, ‘butt party’ members (those controlling the targets) and range staff must all wear adequate PPE. PPE is in the form of a Kevlar helmet, double hearing protection and GSBA (general service body armour). This control enables an extra layer of protection in the unlikely event of a miss fire.


Risk Evaluation

Following all of the above measures, the risk is then re-evaluated in order to ascertain if it still poses the same levels of risk or if the necessary controls are adequate and appropriate to remove or reduce the threat as far as possible. However, it must always be borne in mind that the full elimination of risk is perhaps impossible as it encapsulates far too many variables (both known and unknown), such as human factors, equipment, environment and indeed the risk area itself, thus in order to live with risk we should perhaps understand that a measure of risk is ever present and ‘natural’ and may even be ‘necessary’ for our continued advancement as a species.


Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email


eLearn Online Health and Safety Training

eLearn Online Health and Safety Training

Workplace Hazards

Workplace hazards are anything even remotely that has the potential to cause harm to a person.

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 an employer is required to carry out risk assessments, prepare a safety statement and implement what it contains. Health and Safety Authority inspectors visiting workplaces will want to know how safety and health is being managed. If they investigate an accident, they will scrutinise the risk assessments, safety statement, and the procedures as well as the work practices.


The Purpose of the Risk Assessment

The Risk Assessment should identify all workplace hazards, quantify the risks and introduce control measures to reduce the risk of injury or illness to the workforce. Some additional legislation also requires employers to conduct specific risk assessment for specific common hazards such as manual handling, hazardous substances, display screen equipment and fire safety.


What is Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is simply put a careful examination of workplace hazards and what could cause harm to people. This is so you can consider whether you have taken enough precautions or should you do more to prevent harm. Risk Assessment will help identify what could go wrong, how likely it is to happen and how serious the result could be. The employer then needs to put control measures in place to prevent the problem occurring.


What are Hazard and Risk

Hazard and Risk have two quite distinct meanings.

For example, a bottle of bleach at work falls under category of workplace hazards. If the bottle contains hazardous liquid, bur locked in the cupboard it does little harm. The risk increases when the bottle is used. When people are working safely there is less chance that an accident will occur.

Chance is a measure of how likely it is that an accident could happen.

Severity is a measure of how serious an injury or health effect could be, as a consequence of unsafe working or of an accident. The severity can be influenced by the following:
• the environment,
• the number of people at risk, and
• the steps already taken to control the hazard.


Five Steps of a Risk Assessment

Generally speaking, identifying and managing risks can be done in five steps:

1. Identify the Workplace Hazards

For example:

Slips and Trips – consider floor surfaces, housekeeping and different floor levels.

Working at Height – e.g. decorations using ladders and construction workers on scaffolding.

Fire Hazards – e.g. flammable substances and sources of ignition.

Moving Vehicles – e.g. forklift trucks and reversing lorries.

Dust – such as wood dust in a sawmill or flour in a bakery.

Hot Liquids – e.g. pans of hot water or oil in a kitchen.


2. Decide on who may be harmed and how

It is not just person conducting the task that may be affected but anyone nearby. For example, builders working on scaffolding above a public walkway may inure pedestrians if equipment or materials are dropped. Some employees will need a separate Risk Assessment, e.g. those who are more vulnerable, such as pregnant workers and young, inexperienced staff.


3. Evaluate the risk and decide on precautions

Consider the consequences of injury or harm. Could someone be seriously inured or even killed? Could lots of people be affected. How likely is it to occur? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then these hazards should be addressed as a priority and further controls put in place to reduce the risk to an acceptable level, using the hierarchy of control (see below).


4. Record your significant findings and implement them

It is a legal requirement that businesses formally record their significant findings. It is important not only to implement the controls you identified, making sure staff are trained in the new procedures, but to check to make sure they are followed correctly. Some health and Safety training can be delivered on-line. For solutions, please check our Online Health and Safety Training portal


5. Review and update Risk Assessments as necessary

Reviews should take place when:

Reviews should also take place on a regular basis, possibly annually, just to make sure nothing has been missed and to identify new techniques or scientific developments that could be introduced to improve safety.


Hierarchy of Control

When considering control measures there is a scale of preference. the higher up the chart, the better or more preferable the method. Some measures will work for some tasks or activities and some for others, but not all will be suitable.

The following is a hierarchy of controls:

1. Eliminate.

If something is hazardous, the most effective option is to remove the hazard altogether if possible.

2. Substitute.

If hazard cannot be eliminated, can it be substituted for something safer?

3. Implement Engineering Controls.

For example;

4. Administrative Controls.

Procedures needed to work safely, e.g. limiting the amount of time the worker is exposed to a hazard, increasing safety signage, conducting risk assessments.

5. personal protective Equipment (PPE)

Equipment or clothing provided to protect an employee against risks to their health and safety. Must only be used once all other measures have been tried and found unsuitable.


Some hazards are obvious, such as unguarded moving parts of machinery, dangerous fumes, electricity, working at heights, moving vehicles or moving heavy loads. Less obvious, but at the root of many accidents, are hazards presented by untidy workplaces and poor maintenance. In the case of other hazards, such as excessive noise or exposure to chemicals, it may take months or even years before ill health materialises.

When deciding on the controls, you should consider the general principles of prevention. These are a hierarchy of controls that set out how to manage hazards. The focus should be to get rid of the hazard, so that people are protected. If this is not possible then you should work through the principles until you have made it as safe as reasonably practicable. Your reliance on personal protective equipment (PPE) should be one of the last steps in the process (not the first).

Always consider give training and instruction. Once you have assessed the risks and decided on your controls in line with the principles above, you will need to tell your employees about them and to make sure that they are competent to comply with them.


A Guide to Risk Assessments and Safety Statements

A guide to Risk Assessment and Safety Statements is a very useful publication by the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA), national body in Ireland responsible for the enforcement of workplace health and safety law, the implementation of a number of chemicals regulations, and accreditation. The information contained in the Guide can help an employer or self-employed person to manage safety and health in their workplace(s) by preparing risk assessments and a safety statement.


For online health and Safety training solutions, please check our Online Health and Safety Training portal.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email

A Safety Statement Will Make You Sigh With Relief

Safety Statements in the workplace 

What is a safety statement?

A safety statement is a company’s commitment in writing to a safe and healthy workplace.

The Safety statement is a legal requirement under the Safety Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005.

Section 20 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires that an organisation produce a written programme to safeguard:

The Safety Statement should influence all work activities, including

The Safety Statement must be site specific and be based on a written risk assessment. It cannot be generic and must be communicated in a form manner and language that is likely to be understood by all concerned.

What are the benefits of having a safety statement?

An organisation will see benefits such as,

* An insurance company may refuse cover if you do not have a valid safety statement

Who should have a safety statement?

All employers, self-employed persons and sole traders

How often should it be reviewed?

At least annually or in the event of changes to the business operations, personnel or working environment.

If you want to get Safety Statement Certified and be complaint with regulations click here