Legal Article - Health & Safety

Evaluating the Level of Risk to Persons

Having identified the hazards employers must then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur; i.e. the level of risk and what to do about it. Risk is a part of everyday life and employers are not expected to eliminate all risks. What the employer must do is make sure they know about the main risks to the health and safety of persons and the measures needed to manage risks responsibly.

Generally, employers are required to do everything that is ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. Employers do not need to take action if such action would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.

The employers risk assessment should only include what they could reasonably be expected to know – employers are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

Employers should look at what they are already doing to manage risk; including the risk control measures already have in place. Employers should ask themselves; “Can I get rid of the hazard altogether - and if not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?”.

Some practical steps that employers could take include:

· Trying a less risky option;

· Preventing access to the hazards;

· Organising the work to reduce exposure to the hazard;

· Issuing protective equipment;

· Providing welfare facilities such as first aid and washing facilities;

· Involving and consulting with workers.

Improving health and safety in the workplace need not be cost-prohibitive; for instance, placing a mirror on a blind corner to help prevent vehicle accidents is a low-cost precaution, considering the consequences if it goes wrong. Very often a failure to take simple precautions can cost an employer a lot more if an accident at work does happen!

Employers should involve their workers in identifying risk control measures so as to ensure that their proposals will work in practice and won’t introduce any new hazards.

Those employers that control a number of similar workplaces containing similar work activities can produce a model risk assessments reflecting the common hazards and risks associated with these activities.

Employers may also have access to model risk assessments developed by others, such as Trade Associations, employers’ bodies or other organisations concerned with a particular work activity. Employers may decide to apply these model assessments at each workplace; this should only be done if the employer can:

· be satisfied that the model risk assessment is appropriate to their type of work; and

· the model can be adapted to the detail of their own work situations, including any extension necessary to cover hazards and risks not referred to in the model.

Author: Ernie Taylor

Published: 19 Sep 2016

Edited: 19 Sep 2016

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