Health & Safety risk assessments are simply a logical way of managing and controlling risks. The best risk assessments are often those that are kept simple and easy to use.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to take “reasonably practicable” precautions in various areas to safeguard employees. To do this an assessment of the risk and the steps needed to remove or reduce them needs to be made.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 requires that employers also have to record significant results and the information based upon risk assessments.
Regulation 3 states every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:
- The risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed while they are at work
- The risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him or his undertaking
- For the purposes of identifying the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions
The findings must be recorded if five or more are employed.
A health and safety risk assessment would typically include the following steps:
- Identification of hazard
- Evaluate what the likelihood of the hazard occurring is (known as risk)
- Decide who is at risk and in what way
- Deciding what precautions can be taken to reduce or eliminate this risk
- Introducing those preventive measures
- Record findings and inform colleagues
- Reviewing the assessment periodically revising it if necessary
Risk assessments are usually included in the safety policy document. For the office environment most assessments can be based on generic formats. Templates for these formats can be found in the Health & Safety Manual.
Specific assessments also need to be made for the following areas if applicable to the business. Note that these apply to home workers as well.
Control of substances hazardous to health regulations 1999
Hazardous substances in the office typically include cleaning chemicals and reagents. The manufacturers of these substances are required to provide the correct information in terms of potential harm from the chemicals, the protective equipment needed to use them and what to do if something goes wrong.
Electricity at work regulations 1989
In an office environment these would relate to obvious electrical risks such as exposed wires but also common risks such as the wiring of plugs, the use of adapters and the test of portable appliances.
Noise at work regulations 1989
These regulations require employers to reduce the risk to employees arising from noise exposure as far as is reasonably practicable. It is rarely an issue in offices but consideration is often made to staff who are positioned near machinery.
Provision and use of work equipment regulations 1992
Work equipment that pose risks in the office environment usually refers to paper cutting and stapling equipment, shredders etc. As with all assessments employers are required to identify the risks to health and safety, and provide employees with appropriate information, training, instruction and supervision.
Manual handling operations regulations 1992
A manual handling operation means any transporting or supporting of a load (including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving) by hand or bodily force (not mechanised). Employers should ensure employees avoid hazardous manual handling operations wherever possible but assessments need to be made for those that are unavoidable.
Workplace (health, safety and welfare) regulations 1992
The guidance to these regulations states that:
Risk assessments may show that the workplace or the work should be re-organised so that the need for people to work at an unguarded edge or to work in temperatures which may induce stress does not arise in the first place.
Ventilation, temperature and lighting are factors which can affect the health of employees. The maintenance of the buildings and environment such as the condition of floors, windows, doors, lifts, etc. and staff welfare issues such as sanitary conveniences, washing facilities, drinking water, need to be taken into account.
Health & safety (display screen equipment) regulations 1992
Employers need to perform a suitable and sufficient analysis computer workstations and their immediate environment to ensure the comfort and safety of the user.
Health & Safety Executive leaflets on risk assessment:
- Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare: Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 - Approved Code of Practice and Guidance — Health and Safety Executive
- Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 (Public General Acts - Elizabeth II) — Peter Vergo
- Step by Step Guide to COSHH Assessment — Health and Safety Executive
- The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 — Emily Devenport
- Reducing Noise at Work: Guidance on the Noise at Work Regulations 1989 — Health and Safety Executive
- Work Equipment: Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 — Abe Shigeru
- Manual Handling: Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 - Guidance on Regulations — Health and Safety Executive
- Work with Display Screen Equipment: Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 as Amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 - Guidance on Regulations — Health and Safety Executive
Disclaimer: The Office Safety Company have provided the ‘Quick Guides’ on the basis that the content and advice contained within these documents is to the best of our knowledge accurate at the time of publication. The Office Safety Company does not accept any liability for the accuracy of the information provided in the ‘Quick Guides’.