Health and Safety Law: How to Carry Out a Risk Assessment for Your Business
One of the largest areas of health and safety law, it's difficult to know where to begin with a risk assessment. Read our guide to the essentials
If you are a business dealing with health and safety law for the first time, you will see the mysterious phrase ‘risk assessment’ pop up a lot.
You will know that, as an employer, you must carry out a risk assessment in order to comply with the law – but does this just mean a cursory glance around the office looking for obvious dangers, or a forensic examination of all the fixtures and fittings?
In this article, we cover all you need to know about carrying out a risk assessment as a business, along with practical tips to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.
Identifying health and safety hazards in business
A ‘hazard’ is anything that has the potential to harm someone. It isn’t just limited to the obvious things like heavy machinery or dangerous chemicals – even things such as kettles and portable heaters need to be taken into account.
One area that you should particularly look at is electrical connections. Old, damaged wiring or overloaded sockets can cause a significant shock and fire hazard; make sure equipment is fused properly and don’t ‘daisy-chain’ multiple extension leads as this can cause them to overheat and catch fire.
More obviously, heavy machinery presents an obvious risk. As well as the danger caused by the machinery itself, a machine can cause dangerous levels of noise – especially if old, or poorly looked after. In addition, all vehicles are potentially dangerous and must be taken into account in a risk assessment, and some equipment (such as lifts, lathes, and pressure boilers) are obviously hazardous in any event.
Some substances you handle as part of your business could also be considered hazardous, such as inflammable goods or waste material. Be aware of both the risk of injury and disease when handling such materials.
In addition, there may be specific dangers arising out of the industry you are in – if you are a catering business, your staff are at greater risk of burns and scalds resulting from cooking, whilst construction workers may be more at risk from things like falling objects.