Risk Assessment

How To Conduct a Risk Assessment: Improving Workplace Health & Safety

One employee is injured on the job every seven seconds on average in the United States – that’s 12,600 employees every day, and roughly 4.6 million every year. Poor worker health also costs U.S. employers a whopping $575 billion per year – largely due to 1.5 million days in total of illness-related worker absence and lost productivity, Forbes reports. Fortunately, by understanding the key benefits of workplace health and safety, as well as how to conduct a comprehensive workplace risk assessment, you can identify and mitigate potential hazards across your business. In turn, you’ll successfully be able to keep your operations running smoothly and minimize and prevent harm to both your employees and your business.  

What exactly is a risk assessment?  

At its most simplest, a health and safety risk assessment is a thorough and detailed examination of what can potentially result in harm to people in your workplace. By identifying existing hazards, you can establish whether or not you’ve taken enough precautions to mitigate risk, or if you need to do more to prevent harm. Ultimately, a health and safety risk assessment can allow your business to identify and prioritize required actions to reduce instances of on-the-job injury and poor health.  

Importance of workplace health and safety: minimizing legal and insurance costs 

Most obviously, poor health and safety standards can negatively impact your bottom line in the form of legal fees and fines. You’ll likely also get hit with insurance claims, as if an employee or member of the public is injured on your property, they have the legal right to claim financial compensation from you. In addition to these extra expenses, you’ll also have to pay an increase in your insurance premium. 

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Boosting employee morale and productivity 

Health and safety regulations should form the foundation of your daily business operations – regardless of your industry. Otherwise, you risk hampering employee morale, productivity, and, ultimately, your bottom line. For instance, if your equipment regularly stops working properly, productivity naturally decreases. That is why it is always a good idea to have a quality set of tools and equipment from a supplier like RS Americas. On the other hand, by showing your employees you care about their health and safety and implementing simple requirements that create a safe, well-maintained, and functioning workplace, you’ll, in turn, motivate them to work optimally.

That said, shockingly, as many as 58% of workers say they’re unaware of the basic health and safety rules in their workplace, while 33% think their organization doesn't have these rules at all. To create a happy and thriving workplace where everybody’s on the same page, it’s therefore essential to also communicate simple yet effective health and safety rules to your employees.

Preventing employee absence and lowering turnover rate

If an employee becomes injured on the job, they’ll be unable to work in either the short- or long-term. In turn, you’ll experience notable financial ramifications. An absent employee will also leave you short-staffed, which naturally leads to a drop in productivity. And, if the injured employee decides not to ever come back to work, you’ll also be faced with new recruitment costs.  

Moreover, in most states, you’re usually legally required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp covers employee medical bills and lost wages if they’re injured at work, while protecting you from legal liability. You’re also required to pay into Social Security for your workers, which provides disability income to qualifying applicants – around 66 million Americans currently receive Social Security benefits every month.

However, the process of applying for social security benefits can be long-winded and challenging for injured employees. In fact, 80% of claims are initially rejected – whether it’s due to lack of employment history, inadequate medical evidence, or too-high income. In this case, the applicant may have to appeal their denied claim in court, where they’ll need to testify about their work history, their illness or injury, and how their symptoms prevent them from working.

Boosting brand reputation 

Every business needs to establish a glowing reputation in order to survive and grow. Poor health and safety compliance is proof of your failure to successfully fulfill your management responsibilities, and can undermine your reputation. Not only will you start failing to attract top talent, but you’ll also find it harder to win business partners and clients. 

Who can perform a risk assessment?

Now that you appreciate the benefits of maintaining excellent health and safety standards, you can start taking steps to improve your workplace for your employees. So, when determining who will conduct your risk assessment, you can either do it yourself, or give the responsibility to one or more of your employees. Alternatively, you can bring in a health and safety professional.

Above all, it’s important to use someone who has the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to help you fulfill your health and safety requirements. If you want to use someone within your business, risk assessment training is available, and essential to ensure this person is competent at the task at hand – a risk assessment training will provide them with the skills needed to adequately identify hazards and evaluate risks within your organization. 

How to conduct a risk assessment: a step by step guide 

Although there are no hard and fast rules on how to do a risk assessment, there are a number of steps you can take to thoroughly identify, assess, document, and mitigate the existing potential risks to your businesses. So, start by identifying potential hazards – these will vary depending on the size of your business, industry, daily operations, and geographical location.

You may find it useful to walk around your workplace paying attention to conditions. Physical hazards are particularly vital to look out for – anything that can cause slips, trips, and falls. In fact, slips, trips, and falls are the most injurious accident in the workplace, resulting in almost 700 fatalities every year. You can also interview employees about health and safety issues you may otherwise overlook. Have there been any issues or close calls in the past? It’s also important to clarify the specific groups of people that may be harmed by these hazards, such as, the general public, or warehouse employees, for example. 

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Assessing risks

Next, take time to determine the situations posing the greatest potential to damage your finances. So, for instance, if the government were to update regulations relating to mechanical processes, there would be a resulting risk to your operations. Risks can also have a knock-on effect on your employees, property, and customers, as well as your brand credibility. Once you’ve identified your risks and potential financial damages, it’s essential to record them. So, create a document featuring key categories, such as, risks and potential harms. It’s also useful to score each individual risk – are they minimal, moderate, or severe?  

Devising a mitigation strategy 

Finally, it’s time to devise a solid mitigation strategy to either minimize or completely eliminate workplace risks and hazards. So, for example, perhaps you need to make employees better aware of existing hazards and correct safety protocols. Signs, posters, and labels are your friend here. By placing signs, posters, and labels in key places around your building, you can effectively remind employees about safety procedures and warn them of hazards, as well as draw attention to escape routes and first aid kits.

Ideally, place your signs in highly-visible locations for optimal results – there’s no point in investing in this solution if there’s a risk workers’ won’t see it. So, aim for highly-trafficked routes, including walkways in between desks and hallways, as well as around equipment and/or machinery. In most cases, the more simple you make your signs, the more effective they’ll be at communicating the information needed. In fact, images can go a long way in conveying key messages quickly, clearly, and concisely.

Create an emergency plan

An emergency plan is also a key component of your workplace health and safety. Emergencies happen – no matter how hard you try and avoid them – and it’s essential to be prepared when they do. For example, it’s useful to educate employees on the early warning signs of stroke, heart attack, and cardiac arrest. You can also create guidelines on what to do in the event a worker sustains an injury, and how to phone the emergency services.

Don’t forget to include natural disasters like fires, earthquakes, and floods in your emergency plan. Inform employees on where to locate their nearest escape routes and how to exit the building calmly and safely. 

Review your risk assessment annually

Keep in mind: a risk assessment isn't a one-and-done deal. The workplace is continually changing, and, as such, it’s important to regularly review and update your risk assessment. Ideally, you should conduct this review at least once a year to check it’s still working as well as possible, as well as to identify and consequently mitigate any new risks.  

As an employer, you’re responsible to protect the health and wellbeing of your employees while on the job. By conducting a comprehensive workplace risk assessment, you can increase employee morale and productivity, decrease illness and injury rates, and, ultimately, boost your bottom line.  

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