Risk can be defined as the likelihood or probability that an individual will be harmed or affected by an adverse health effect if they are exposed to a hazard. Risk assessments must be conducted by employers to ensure that risks and hazards are identified and then subsequently minimised, to protect the safety of all individuals involved within workplace. The UK government has a strong commitment to health and safety standards in the workplace and thus employers are bound to certain duties, such as minimising risks in the workplace.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is legal requirement in the UK for organisation's and businesses, this legal requirement is established within:
- The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Risk assessments are necessary because they allow an employer to identify all possible hazards within the workplace, whether it is in the form of a physical hazard, a substance or a chemical. Subsequently, it will allow the employer to identify the necessary control measures which can protect individuals from these hazards, in effect reducing the risk associated in the workplace. An employer must delegate a health and safety team which is thoroughly trained and well educated in the health and safety duties expected of organisations in the UK. A risk assessment can be divided into three vital aspects:
1) Identification of hazards within the workplace.
2) Evaluate the risk which is associated with the above hazards, as well as which individuals will be involved with the hazards. You can categorise the risk; for example, a certain hazard will have a far higher level of risk associated with it than some other hazards will.
3) Decide which control measures you will use, whilst taking into consideration the feasibility of using these particular control measures. For example, are there certain control measures that could be used which are cheaper whilst still effective?
4) Continually update your risk assessments and control measures, ensuring that it is well communicated around the whole workplace.
Dong Xing Group Ltd, a scaffolding company in Auckland, was fined $180,000 in October 2018 due to their lack of risk assessment and health and safety standards. Dong Xing Group Ltd had not provided their workers with a safe workplace, and it was found that there were multiple risks apparent in the workplace. The risks which were evident include falling from height, scaffold collapsing and electrical shocks. These risks breached the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which explicitly states that hazards and risks in the workplace must be dealt with properly.
Evidently, if found guilty of not appropriately identifying or protecting workers from risks in the workplace, an employer can face a substantial fine. Therefore, training and knowledge of risks and hazards in the workplace is of the utmost importance to an employer as well as to employees.