Notify Technology | Jun 28, 2024 | Blog

What is a Risk Assessment at Work?

What is a risk assessment?

Looking after your employees and their work environment is an ongoing responsibility for all employers and one that comes with many different considerations. From consolidating everyday processes to planning long-term safety strategies, it can be challenging to know which areas to prioritise. One key piece of your health and safety puzzle that can’t be ignored is your workplace risk assessments.

Not only is risk assessment a legal requirement, it is also one of the primary tools to help you build a more comprehensive picture of workplace health and safety. In this article, we’ll take a look at what exactly a risk assessment contains, why they are important and some of the ways that Notify Technology can help streamline the risk assessment process for you.


What is a risk assessment?

Assessing risk in your workplace is a foundational part of understanding and preventing work-related accidents, ill health and other occupational hazards. Carrying out a risk assessment is the process of identifying any hazards in your workplace that could cause harm to your employees, damage company property or otherwise negatively impact your business in some way. Once these hazards are identified, the findings can be analysed and the degree of risk – that is, how seriously the hazard could impact the organisation – can be established.

Different industries will have different types of risk assessments that should be carried out, but assessing risk is crucial no matter what your organisation does. For example, fire risk assessments are required in all workplaces. If your employees spend any time working at a desk with a computer or a laptop, you should carry out Display Screen Equipment Risk Assessments. Similarly, if your teams regularly lift and move heavy goods or equipment, you need to ensure that a Manual Handling Risk Assessment has been carried out. Workplaces that deal with hazardous substances are required to complete a Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Assessment.

Following these steps, employers can then decide what action needs to be taken to mitigate any risks posed. Depending on your industry, the size of your team or the level of risk, actions might include rewriting instruction manuals, organising employee training or upgrading equipment. A risk assessment could even prompt a wider health and safety audit, enabling you to improve standards across your workplace.


Why is a risk assessment important?

As we’ve covered, risk assessments are a legal requirement. Beyond basic compliance, there are many reasons why risk assessments are an important part of your workplace health and safety culture.

Remove / limit the impact of short and long-term hazards

 Risk assessments will help you identify hazards brought about by day-to-day processes, helping to keep your employees safe in their everyday work. By proactively identifying hazards, assessing the likelihood and severity of them and by implementing robust control measures, you can prevent accidents from occurring and minimise the number of potential injuries. As well as helping with short-term incident management, risk assessments also protects your employees’ long-term health and safety. Risk assessments can identify hazards that might lead to long-term physical health problems, for example through poor manual handling or exposure to substances like asbestos. Taking steps to lessen these smaller and larger risks is key to protecting your people and your working environment.


Create awareness and improve engagement

As well as reviewing existing procedures, an effective risk assessment can highlight hazards that were previously unknown. Sharing these findings with other managers or department heads can help raise awareness of similar instances across your organisation. Approaching risk assessments as an awareness-raising exercise that positively impacts everyone can improve employee engagement with health and safety more generally too.


Save time and money

Completing workplace risk assessments will ultimately save you time and money. Without appropriate measures in place, businesses risk being open to fines or lawsuits, not to mention costs incurred from damage to equipment and property. Mitigating risk avoids delays in production or services that can happen while an avoidable incident is investigated. In more serious circumstances, hazard-related staff absence can lead to more time being given to training new employees or more stress being passed on to other team members – a hazard in itself!


What is in a risk assessment?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK, there are five steps that you should follow to complete a comprehensive and effective risk assessment. Including each of these steps in your risk assessment will ensure you are best placed to minimise and mitigate risk in your workplace. The five steps are:

  1. Identify any hazards

 Visible and physical hazards can be identified by walking around your workplace, but don’t forget to also consider psychological risks such as stress or negative relationship dynamics.

  1. Assess the risk

 Here you can consider who is at risk and how seriously they might be impacted. What processes are already in place to lessen the impact of particular hazards? Consider if any of these could be improved or replaced, as well as who will be responsible for making these changes.

  1. Control the risks

This is where you take action! Make the changes necessary to mitigate the risks you have identified.

  1. Record your findings

Aside from your legal obligation to record your risk assessment findings if your organisation has five or more employees, keeping good records helps you track and monitor hazards moving forward. With risk assessment software, you can keep all of your records in one place and easily share them with your workforce too.

  1. Review your Risk Assessment 

Finally, take time to review your risk assessment. Share it with your teams and treat it as a ‘live’ document that should change as your organisation’s processes and policies evolve.


Who can do a risk assessment?

Anyone with the relevant knowledge, skills and understanding of a workplace task can carry out a risk assessment. This is commonly referred to as a “competent person”. However, the ultimate responsibility for workplace safety lies with the employer. According to the law, even if an employer assigns the task of completing risk assessments to an employee with the relevant skills, knowledge and experience, the employer remains accountable.

That said, the most effective risk assessments are those carried out in collaboration with employees from across your organisation. Your workforce know their roles inside-out and are the best-placed people to highlight hazards and safety issues they might encounter in their everyday work. Employees can also bring to light issues that might seem particular to one team or department but, in fact, affect your organisation more widely.


How often should you carry out a risk assessment?

You should be completing a risk assessment in advance of any new activity, projects or environmental changes happening in your workplace. Depending on your workplace, this could be anything from moving to a hybrid working pattern, with employees spending more time working from home, to new industrial machinery being installed.

As we’ve already mentioned, your risk assessments are not one-time documents that are completed and then filed away, never to be examined again. Any risk assessment should be reviewed and updated regularly. How regularly is relative to the level of risk identified, but you should always review your assessments following a near-miss, incident or accident. Then you can decide whether any existing measures are robust enough or if further action needs to be taken to avoid similar incidents happening in future. Here at Notify, we recommend that you also review your risk assessments at least once a year.


How Notify can help you streamline the risk assessment process?

Risk assessment

 When you’ve spent time and effort to ensure your risk assessments are as comprehensive as they can be, you need a digital tool to maximise the impact your actions will have on your company’s health and safety culture. Notify Technology has a range of software solutions that can help streamline and support the risk assessment process.

With our risk assessment software, you can save time by creating one-off or repeating assessment templates and digitally update workplace hazards on the go. Notify helps you calculate hazard risk scores based on likelihood and severity, you track any changes being made in real time and you can see a complete overview of your risk exposure, with reports and data all in one place. That way you can easily spot trends, eliminate risks before they become serious incidents and ultimately keep your employees and your working environment safe.

If you’d like to find out more about how Notify can simplify and enhance your risk assessment process, get in touch and book your free trial today.

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