Workplace Risk Assessments

Risk assessment – another weapon in the fight against injury at work

The use of risk assessment has been well established as an effective technique for pinpointing potential hazardous situations and to help prevent accidents at work. The only problem with risk assessment is that it is a time consuming and often expensive process for businesses. The law says that risk assessments must be carried out as part of an employer’s duty of care towards their employees and to protect visitors to a place of work. Now, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is attempting to make that task easier for businesses.

New, simplified documents are being introduced by the HSE to help businesses get their health and safety arrangements in place. The organisation, whose primary objective is to ensure the safety of everyone in a working environment, has developed a new electronic template, specifically designed for small and medium size businesses which combines into one document the requirements for a health and safety policy, risk assessment and written record of health and safety arrangements. The HSE has even included ‘example’ documents for a range of industries to show businesses what a ‘good enough’ record should look like. The HSE has already tested the new documents and received the thumbs up from 90% of users, who said that the new layout would cut the amount of time they dedicate to risk assessment in half.

The aim is to get a message across to businesses that risk assessments needn’t be time consuming, bureaucratic or complicated, but that they are essential to managing dangers in the workplace. The HSE hopes to encourage a ‘common sense’ approach that is proportional to the potential risks involved. Since simpler documentation was originally introduced in 2005, the HSE estimates that businesses have saved over £400million and believe that they are on track to deliver a 25% reduction in administrative burden by 2010, taking the total savings to around £500million.

Anything that helps businesses conform more stringently and easily to health and safety legislation is to be welcomed, and the promotion of ‘prevention is better than cure’ through a culture of assessment first can only mean an improvement for worker’s safety. The added incentive that it will actually save companies money is also a bonus, and will hopefully prompt more small and medium size businesses to take risk assessment seriously. If an organisation doesn’t know what hazards their workers face on a daily basis, they are leaving themselves open to compensation claims from workers who suffer accidents at work. Entirely preventable accidents, if only a proper risk assessment had been carried out. This simple act of simplifying the documentation involved could be a major step forward in worker safety and prevent hundreds if not thousands of preventable accidents every year. When you add the cost to businesses of compensation claims, raised insurance premiums and the impact of time off taken by injured workers, the savings could mount up to considerably more than the HSE’s estimates of £500million.

A risk assessment isn’t an optional extra in business any more. It’s not just another piece of bureaucratic legislation forced on struggling businesses by the Government or by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels. It is a tried and tested method of protecting workers and visitors to a business’s premises, as well as protecting the company from legal action due to their own negligence in their duty of care to their workers. The HSE’s streamlining process is to be welcomed.

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