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What you know about risk assessments could be wrong

by , 26 June 2015
You're probably taking steps to protect your employees, and using your risk assessment to tell you if you're covering all you need to.

But how would you feel if I told you what you know about risk assessments could be wrong?

Here are seven facts about risk assessments that could prove what you know is actually wrong...

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What you know about risk assessments could be misleading you

1. A risk assessment isn't about creating huge amounts of paperwork
You must record your significant findings, but you don't have to record everyday risks. Keep it simple and focus on your control measures. An easy way to record your findings is to use the Risk Assessment Toolkit.

And if you have less than five employees you generally don't even have to write anything down.

2. OHSA doesn't expect you to remove all risks
The OHS Act says you must protect your employees by putting in place measures to control risks you identify as much as possible.

3. You're not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks
Your risk assessment only needs to include what you could reasonably be expected to know.

4. Identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace
A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and look for any hazards. Then think about the risk, which is the chance (high or low) of somebody being harmed, and how serious the harm could be.

5. Involve your employees in your risk assessment
Ask your employees what they think the hazards are. They'll notice things that aren't obvious to you. They could also have some good ideas on how to control the risks.

6. Pay attention to specific risks
Make sure you have particular control measures that are required by law. Ensure you're familiar with the OHS laws by consulting the Health and Safety Advisor.

A few examples of activities that need special attention are working at height, working with chemicals, machinery, gas, and electricity.
If you carry out a high-risk activity, check whether you need a license or if you need to notify someone before you start work. For example, there are a lot of changes to the process of applying for a construction work permit, so make sure you comply with the new Construction Regulations.

Read on to see if what you know about risk assessment could be misleading…

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What else about risk assessment that could be misleading you

7. Concentrate on the real risks
These are the risks most likely to cause harm. Consider the measures you're already taking to control the risks and ask if you've covered all you need to do.

Once you've identified the risks and what you need to do to control them, put suitable measures in place.  

Then record your significant findings. Any paperwork you produce should help you to manage the risks in your business and tell people what they need to know. For most people this doesn't need to be a big exercise. Just note the main points down about the significant risks and what you concluded.

You can get more help and ideas on ways to control your risks by consulting the Health and Safety Advisor.

8. Check your risk assessment and update it
Sooner or later you'll bring in new equipment, substances or procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense to review your risk assessment on a regular basis. If anything significant changes, review your risk assessment!

9. Don't forget to consider the harm to everyone
Some employees may have particular needs. For example new and young workers, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
Think about people who might not be at your workplace all the time, like visitors, contractors and maintenance workers.

Take members of the public into account who could be hurt by your work activities.

If you share a workplace with another business, you'll need to consider how your work affects others and how their work affects you and your employees. Talk to each other and work together to make sure controls are in place.

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