As new legislation this month will increase the penalties for breaches of health and safety regulations, a risk assessment health check could prevent your business getting seriously injured
As new legislation this month will increase the penalties for breaches of health and safety regulations, a risk assessment health check could prevent your business getting seriously injured.
On 16 January the Health and Safety (Offences) Act will come into force, raising the maximum fine for breaches to £20,000 (previously £5,000). Under the new regime serious violations could even result in imprisonment. So, if you haven’t done one already, now is the time to undertake a risk assessment.
Locate the hazards
Grahame Clarke, director of health and safety at HR consultants Hornet Solutions, says: ‘Firstly you will need to do an assessment of the general premises, which involves a very common sense approach of walking around and identifying what is likely to cause a problem.’
This includes looking for hazards that could reasonably be expected to result in significant harm, such as fire risks or poorly maintained floors or stairs.
‘It’s also a good idea to consult with members of staff so you don’t miss anything when drawing up the list,’ Clarke adds.
People at risk
The next step is to identify who might be harmed. Individuals don’t need to be named, just the groups who could be affected. For example, office staff, maintenance personnel or members of the public. Pay attention to people who may be particularly more vulnerable like staff with disabilities or lone workers.
Limit the damage
Brian O’Halloran, managing director at health and safety consultancy BOH&S Safety Solutions, says that once the hazard has been noted the first step should be to see how it can be removed. ‘A simple example would to replace hazardous cleaning products,’ he says. If the identified risk cannot be removed, then measures need to be taken to make harm unlikely.
It is important to document your findings on a risk assessment form, a template of which can be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website. In the event of an action for civil liability, the document will help your defence if an HSE inspector asks what precautions were taken.
Risk assessments do not stop once the procedure has been completed. O’Halloran advises a review at regular intervals, so that any new hazards can be identified. ‘I would advocate that one is taken out every 14 months. Attention should also be paid to how seasonal changes may affect risks,’ he adds.
See also: Free risk assessment for your business