This article is re-printed from Health and Safety Executive (United Kingdom)

A risk assessment is an important step in protecting your workers and your business, as well as complying with the law. It helps you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace – the ones with the potential to cause harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks, for example, ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly so people do not slip or cupboard drawers kept closed to ensure people do not trip. For most, that means simple, cheap and effective measures to ensure your most valuable asset – your workforce – is protected.

The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’. This guide tells you how to achieve that with minimum fuss.

What is risk assessment?
A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.

Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and affect your business too if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace so that you put in place a plan to control the risks.

Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, you will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense therefore, to review what you are doing on an ongoing basis.

Look at your risk assessment and think about whether there have been any changes? Are there improvements you still need to make? Have your workers spotted a problem? Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses? Make sure your risk assessment stays up to date.

When you are running a business it’s all too easy to forget about reviewing your risk assessment – until something has gone wrong and it’s too late. During the year, if there is a significant change, don’t wait: check your risk assessment and where necessary, amend it. If possible, it is best to think about the risk assessment when you’re planning your change – that way you leave yourself more flexibility.