Legal Article - Health & Safety

Identifying Hazards in the Work Place

A hazard can be described as being anything with the potential to cause harm to persons, or damage to plant, property and equipment. Risk can be defined as being the likelihood that harm will occur coupled with its severity or the outcome of harm, i.e. from a minor injury through to fatal injury; or minor damage through to catastrophic or irreparable damage.

A good risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork. An effective risk assessment process is more about identifying the hazards and then selecting sensible measures to control the risks to the health and safety to persons in the workplace.

Employers will therefore need to think about how accidents and ill health could happen in their workplace and then concentrate their efforts on real risks – those that are most likely to be realised and which will cause the most harm to persons when exposed to the hazard.

One of the most important aspects of an employer’s risk assessment is the need to accurately identify the potential hazards in the workplace. A good starting point for any employer is to firstly walk around the place of work and properly consider any hazards associated with the work done; or within the work environment itself. In other words, what is it about the work activities, processes or substances used; or the workplace itself that could cause injury to employees, or could harm employee health?

The following will help the employer to identify the hazards that are probably going to matter:

· Check manufacturers’ instructions or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for work equipment and chemicals or products that are used. These documents can be very helpful in explaining the hazards and putting each in to proper perspective.

· Look back at accident and ill-health records – examining the Accident Book and other records that are associated with previous accidents / incidents can often help employers to identify the less obvious hazards.

· Take account of non-routine operations (e.g. maintenance, cleaning operations or changes in production cycles; i.e. changing the paint used for paint spraying operations) when going through the workplace activities to ensure the completed Risk Assessment is suitable and sufficient.

· Remember to think about long-term hazards to health (e.g. high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances). Occupational ill-health is by far the greater reason for absence from work of employees when compared with injuries at work. Employers should be looking to reduce all reasons for absence from work; be it occupational ill-health; or injury at work. The risk assessment process will contribute towards this aim.

· Visit the HSE website – HSE publishes practical guidance on hazards and provide possible risk control measures for the employer to consider.

There are some hazards with a well recognised risk of harm to persons; for example, working at height, working with chemicals, working with machinery and exposure to harmful dusts; such as asbestos fibres. Depending on the type of work that the employer undertakes as part of their business there may be other risks that are relevant to motor vehicle repair and maintenance.


Author: Ernie Taylor

Published: 19 Sep 2016

Edited: 19 Sep 2016

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