A Risk Assessment identifies any potential hazards or thing that could cause harm to people working at your premises (or to the public accessing your services or taking part in your activities). Once the risks are identified, you can put in place measures to minimise and control those risks to secure a healthy safe environment.
Carrying out a risk assessment demonstrates that your group is committed to ensuring that your volunteers and staff are working in a safe and healthy environment. A risk assessment is essentially a critical audit of your activities; how you do them, the equipment you use and the surroundings in which you carry them out.
The main purpose of doing a risk assessment is to make everyone aware of the risks, so that action can be taken to eliminate or at least reduce those risks. It also considers the likelihood or the risk of someone being harmed by those hazards and how serious that harm could be.
It is important to consider real risks, so involving your employees and volunteers in the risk assessment is essential – they will be familiar with the premises and will spot things that you may not have considered before.
Carrying out a Risk Assessment
Identify the hazards
walk around your group’s premises writing down any potential hazards. Start with those which are most obvious – for example everyday things like the storage of cleaning materials or tools, or safe installation of electrical equipment, computer set up etc.
then write down any invisible hazards - for example, in the voluntary sector one of the biggest risks people endure is stress (often related to working long hours, under pressure, to tight deadlines) or physical assault. Invisible hazards can also include fumes from electrical equipment
finally, note down things that might be more hazardous in relation to specific people – such as pregnant women or workers who have a disability
Identify who is at risk
list the people who are going to be at risk from the hazards you have identified. Some people will be more at risk from particular hazards than others – for example pregnant women or people with disabilities
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
part of your Risk Assessment needs to be an evaluation of the risk imposed by the hazards you have identified. In what way are they potentially harmful and how seriously might someone be injured?
does your group share facilities with others? How does this affect your measures in risk reduction?
decide whether any existing precautions you have in place are adequate. Think about what you can do to remove the risk. Could the hazards be completely eliminated? For example, if an electrical wire is exposed, you could replace it, or cover it with insulating tape. If your cleaner is using potentially dangerous chemical agents - change the cleaning product to something water-based.
write down the actions currently taken - the actions you propose to take - who will be responsible for implementing them – and the date they will be completed by
Record your findings
if you employ five people or more, the law requires you to record the findings from your Risk Assessment, but it makes sense to do so anyway as a record which you can refer to and review
ensure the written record of your findings is made available to your staff and volunteers, and that they co-operate with the carrying out of the recommendations made as a result of the assessment
agree a review date
Review your Risk Assessment on a regular basis and in response to changes
Regularly reviewing and revising your risk assessment will take account of changing circumstances. Few workplaces remain the same. You must review your assessment when there are major changes in the workplace, such as the introduction of new machinery, or new ways of working - but you must carry out regular reviews anyway - possibly annually.