Building a robust safety system for your organisation is crucial.
The first step is to assess all potential risks to your employees, contractors and volunteers. This is the backbone of your protection policy, and needs to be comprehensive.
The Legal Obligation
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum action that an organisation must take is to:
- Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (the hazards)
- Decide on the likelihood and seriousness of potential harm to employees (the risk)
- Take action to eliminate the hazard, and if this is not possible put measures in place to control the risk
Identifying the risk profiles within your organisation
It is crucial to identify the various risk profiles and the range of risks within the business. For example, field-based engineers have different risk profiles to office-based staff, or salespeople working in and out of the office environment.
Protecting lone workers is our focus. According to the latest guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on protecting lone workers, the HSE outlined five different risk profiles of employees that work alone – namely:
- Working from home
- Working alone at a fixed base (e.g. shop, factory, warehouse)
- Working separately from others on the same premises or outside of normal working hours (e.g. cleaners, security officers)
- Working away from a fixed base (e.g. social workers, sales reps, engineers, HGV drivers)
- Volunteers carrying out work alone on behalf of charities/voluntary organisations
What to consider when creating risk profiles
- Does the workplace present a special risk to the lone worker?
- Does travelling to and from the location present a special risk?
- Can one person adequately control the risks of the job?
- Does the lone worker travel out of the country?
- Is the person medically fit and suitable to work alone?
- Is there a risk of violence?
- What training is required for competency?
- Have they received the required training to work alone?
- How will the person be supervised?
- Are people of a particular gender especially at risk if they work alone?
- Are new or inexperienced staff especially at risk if they work alone?
- What happens if a person becomes ill, has an accident, or if there is an emergency?
- How can the lone worker summon assistance if required?
- Are there systems in place for contacting and tracing those who work alone?
Identify the risks for each risk profile
Consult with employee(s) on what risks they identify. They know immediately if something makes them feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Asking employees to feed into risk assessments is important. As well as making your job easier, it promotes engagement from employees when you introduce control measures. If you’re a small organisation, it’s better to consult with employees directly. In larger organisations, it may be beneficial to speak to health and safety representatives. Either way, they fulfil your responsibilities to consult your workforce about Health and Safety.
How to collate a comprehensive risk register
- Attend site visits in person. Most employees are not health and safety professionals, and may be overlooking significant issues.
- Talk to colleagues in different departments. Discuss department specific risks as well as those identified in their risk assessments. There will be a common thread of risks running through the organisation.
- Consult peers in similar businesses, to ensure no areas have been overlooked. Leveraging the experience and insight of others dealing with similar risk profiles can help you cover all bases.
- Where possible, review previous accident logs and manufacturer information/data sheets. Incidents are often repeated, so check your organisation’s accident records along with causes. Note manufacturers’ warnings and potential risks associated with their equipment.
Assess the risks for each risk profile
Once you’ve identified all of the risks in your risk profiles, you’re now ready to assess each of the risks (the ‘Risk Rating’ column in the relevant template).
HSE stipulates that “You need to do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.”
To help you do this, we find that it’s helpful to create a matrix (as laid out in the spreadsheet) to evaluate the risks and help you define your approach to mitigating each risk, based on individual ratings.
It’s important when assessing risks to consider lone working in EVERY risk. For example, a risk of a medical emergency or fall is serious even when colleagues are around, but if nobody is around to assist, these can be fatal.
To assess risks, you should weigh up the LIKELIHOOD against SEVERITY of each risk to provide the risk rating. Use the table in the template document to guide you.
When you have documented all of the risks and assessed the severity of each, the next step will be to mitigate these risks, defining your control measures to reduce the risks you’ve identified.
Continually review the risks!
Identifying and assessing risks must be regularly revisited. Risks constantly change and evolve as projects and businesses develop. You should also set aside time to formally review your risk assessments. Keep it up to date by reviewing every 6 months at least.