How workplace risk assessments work

Conducting regular workplace risk assessments is just as important to running a safe, risk-averse and compliant organisation, as having the right business insurance in place or hiring qualified employees. Without routine assessments, there’s no way you can truly know what hazards exist and how serious they could be to your business. Risk assessments shed light on where potential dangers exist and what you can do about them.

Why conduct regular risk assessments?

Every workplace, from offices to construction sites, comes with hazards. The key to creating a safe and healthy work environment is to identify, prioritise, and control those risks as much as possible. This keeps your workers safe from injury and illness, whilst at the same time, signalling to your employees through your actions that their safety matters.

Conducting assessments also reduces the likelihood of your business being vulnerable to a lawsuit if someone was to be harmed on the job. It is, after all, the responsibility of employers to ensure the safety of their workers as part of New Zealand’s  Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. All employers are required to take steps to:

  • Identify risks
  • Assess risks
  • Control risks
  • Review control measures to ensure they’re doing what they can to control existing risks

Regular assessments ensure you’re covering your workplace health and safety obligations.

What risks should assessments address?

Workplace risk assessments encompass four different types of risks:

  • Physical risks such as slippery floors, dangerous equipment, and exposure to high-decibel noise
  • Chemical hazards including toxins in cleaning products, paints, pesticides, and glues
  • Biological hazards, which are primarily found in the healthcare industry, such as exposure to infectious diseases
  • Psychological hazards like workplace stress and harassment

Depending on your industry and the specifics of your work environment, you could have any number of risks that need managing.

For example, in the mining industry, risk management could include a physician regularly checking employees for signs of chemical exposure. In a manufacturing plant, your assessment could reveal the need for routine safety training to ensure employees are using equipment safely. In any type of workplace, you may discover that there are problems with bullying or excessive workloads, which means you may have to address internal culture and work scheduling to prevent employees from experiencing undue psychological harm.

What hazards exist – and even how those hazards evolve over time – is unique to every business. This is even more reason why making risk assessments a foundational part of your business practices so critical.

How to conduct risk assessments for your workplace

Thorough assessments can be complex because there are so many variables involved. An internal health and safety manager or a third-party provider begins assessing workplace risks by looking at all possible hazards and who could be affected.

Next, the goal is to determine the nature of each risk – how likely is an injury or illness to occur, how long and how frequently is someone exposed, and how many people are exposed? This helps to prioritise which risks need to be addressed right away.

Finally, the assessor looks at existing control measures. It’s important to check that adequate measures are in place to either control or eliminate risks. This involves making sure supervisors and managers are clear on what steps need to take place and when, whether it’s safety training, replacing equipment, or employee medical testing.

Assessing the health and safety of a workplace never ends

The reality is, even when you have robust safety procedures in place, workplaces change and can be exposed to new risks over time. From onboarding new employees to introducing workers to new equipment or machinery, when changes happen, it’s an ideal time to conduct a risk assessment. Setting up routine assessments is also a preventative measure to account for unknowns, like equipment that becomes faulty, putting workers at risk without anyone realising it. It also provides an opportunity to learn about new knowledge and trends surrounding workplace safety. Leaders in health and safety are always coming up with more efficient and effective ways to keep workers safe.

With ongoing risk assessments, you can take huge strides toward managing risk and creating a workplace you and your employees can have confidence in. For help with conducting workplace risk assessments, contact us today.