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Starting a Business
The Simply Business guide

Why carry out a risk assessment?

For many small businesses the management of health and safety issues and keeping up with the multitude of regulations can seem like a daunting task.

For some, the answer is to ignore it and convince themselves that it does not apply to their business. For others, the answer is to pay a third party organisation to ‘sort it out’ and provide the required policies and documentation.

In truth neither option is the correct approach and both can be very costly to the business.

What are your legal responsibilities?

According to Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers have a duty to ensure that – so far as is reasonably practicable – the health, safety and welfare of all employees is looked after.

The Act also requires that employers of five or more employees have a written statement of their health and safety policy and that this is, along with any revisions, communicated to the workforce.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places further duties on employers to:

  • Carry out assessments of risks to employees and other people, that are caused by their work activities
  • Introduce effective arrangements for planning, organising, controlling and monitoring controls and precautions
  • Appoint one or more competent person to help and advise on health and safety matters
  • Provide employees with relevant and understandable information relating to the risks arising from their work activity and the controls/precautions to be followed.

Failure to comply with Health and Safety laws can result in heavy fines or imprisonment.

What is a risk assessment?

Many small businesses think that completing a risk assessment is a difficult and complicated process, and as a result is often misunderstood. For this reason many companies employ third party consultants to complete a series of assessments and prepare the required documentation and then they relegate the manual to a remote bookshelf.

Jukka Takala, Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) says: “This is not what we want. It is more important for a small company’s management to apply their own rational thinking to the key health and safety issues within their workplace, and carry out a simple assessment than to engage a big consultancy firm.”

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your workplace, could cause harm to people and an evaluation of whether the controls and precautions you have in place are adequate.

The simple approach to risk assessment published by the HSE comprises 5 steps:

Step 1: Identify the hazards
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions/controls
Step 4: Implement the controls and record your findings and actions
Step 5: Review your assessments regularly or when there is a significant change in the risk and update as necessary

Seeking competent advice

The law requires that a business should carry out and record risk assessments if it has more than 5 employees.

Businesses are encouraged to carry out the assessments themselves if they have the competency in-house, however it would be wise for a smaller business to take expert advice and support when doing so.

A company such as CRL Risk Adviser, for example, offers small businesses a wealth of health and safety information in an easy to understand format. For a low cost – just £47 including VAT in the first year – a business can also access a library of downloadable document templates and support directly from the CRL experts.

Services like these are an enormous help to the small business owner who doesn’t have the time to filter the huge amount of information out there and work out what is relevant to his or her business.

Risk assessment is good for your business

Over all, completing risk assessments and effectively managing health and safety in the workplace is good for your business. It not only keeps your employees safer but can have a beneficial impact on business insurance costs – both on premiums and claims. It will also reduce lost production time through employee absence or machinery downtime and improves workers’ motivation and productivity.

So don’t put it off any longer and get started on your risk assessment today.

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