How To Perform Risk Assessment in Safety Management

Risk assessment is a core part of any safety management practice and is crucial in ensuring the health and safety of your workers and reducing risks of work-related incidents and injuries. 

In the U.S., U.K., and many other countries, risk assessment is also a legal requirement for employers and also some self-employed professions. 

In this guide, we will help you understand what risk assessment is, and how to better manage your risk assessment programs. 

What Is Risk Assessment in Safety Management?

Simply put, risk assessment is a systematic process of identifying and evaluating hazards and risks within a workplace environment that have the potential to negatively impact the organization in one way or another. 

After the risks and hazards are identified, it will use risk analysis techniques to help determine the best way to implement control measures to eliminate or at least reduce the exposure to these risks. Typically risk assessments are completed by a safety department. 

We can define ‘risk’ as anything that has the likelihood and the severity of a negative occurrence resulting from a hazard. A ‘hazard’, on the other hand, is anything that has the potential to cause a negative impact. 

In a safety management program, a thorough risk assessment should identify all potential hazards in a work environment. 

What Is Risk Matrix?

The term “risk assessment” and “risk matrix” are often used interchangeably from each other, but they actually mean two different things. 

Risk matrix, or to be exact, risk assessment matrix, is a matrix form used to evaluate the likelihood and severity of the risk. 

Why Risk Assessment is Important In Safety Management?

Risk assessment, as discussed, is a core part of any safety management program, and should be an important aspect of any organization. 

The main purposes of risk assessment are: 

  • Prevent work-related injuries and illnesses as a part of safety management practice
  • Help meet legal health and safety requirements in your area
  • Identify all health and safety hazards in the workplace
  • Increase awareness of existing hazards to management and all workers
  • Evaluate the risks presented by each hazard within the workplace
  • Determine who is at risk with each hazard
  • Evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of existing risk control measures
  • Determine which activities or tasks require new control measures or modifications to existing control measures
  • To decide whether further resources are needed to ensure all of the above

When To Carry Out Risk Assessment

Ideally, sufficient risk assessment should be carried out in these situations: 

  • Before a new activity or task is introduced, even if it’s seemingly ‘safe’. We should assume that all new activities will potentially introduce new hazards
  • Before changes are made to an existing process or task
  • When new imminent or potential hazards are identified
  • When there’s a new accident, incident, or injury-causing event to verify whether the currently implemented control measures were appropriate or need to be modified

Once implemented, a risk assessment should also be reviewed periodically to check whether the current assessment is still valid. The higher the level of risk associated with the activity, the more frequent the review should be performed.

Safety Risk Assessment: Step-By-Step

We can complete a risk assessment process in five core steps: 

Step 1: Identifying Potential Risks

The first and arguably the most important step is to identify all potential hazards within the workplace. There are various approaches we can use here, but here are some common methods to consider: 

  • Observing all tasks and activities performed in the workplace and manually identifying which processes, activities, equipment, or substances that are potentially hazardous
  • Interviewing workers and others involved in the tasks or activities
  • Analyzing past incidents and injury records
  • Checking all equipment’s datasheets, information, instructions, and guidelines

Step 2: Identify those who might be harmed by the identified hazards

The next step is to identify individuals or teams that might be impacted by the identified hazards. Identify how they might be affected: direct contact, indirect contact, or other means. You don’t really have to identify workers by name, but you can identify the groups, i.e. “employees working at heights”. Make notes when some hazards may present a higher/more frequent risk to certain groups. 

Step 3: Evaluate risk severity and establish control measures

Evaluate the severity of the risk should it occur, and plan a suitable corrective action to eliminate or at least reduce this level of risk. We should consider all options possible to reduce: 

  • The frequency of the potential risk that may occur
  • The severity of harm that may occur

Also, identify the costs that may be associated with the required control measures required to reduce or eliminate these hazards. 

Step 4: Significant findings and implement changes

Recording your findings of the risk assessment is very important, and might be legally required. You can opt to keep records of findings physically or digitally, and they should include: 

  • The types of hazards found
  • Groups potentially impacted
  • Control measures implemented
  • Who performed the risk assessment
  • When the assessment was done

Step 5: Review and monitor

Risk assessment should be periodically reviewed and adjusted as needed when: 

  • There are any significant change within the activity in question or within the workplace
  • After an incident or injury has occurred
  • After a near-miss has been reported

How To Simplify Risk Assessment in a Safety Management Program

As we can see, risk assessment can be a very complex process that may require challenging tracking, measurement, and observation. The manual process of performing a risk assessment can be time-consuming and may occupy your valuable employee’s time that can otherwise be used on more productive tasks. 

With that being said, the best way to simplify the risk assessment process while ensuring you still have reliable and effective risk assessment processes is to use safety management software.

iReportSource’s Safety Audit offers an all-in-one tool where you can identify hazards, prioritize your risks, review and analyze hazard findings, and create an action plan to resolve the problem. 

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