Here we will be looking at the physical risks that need to be accounted for within any business planning, but hopefully will cover the general areas necessary to give you an idea of what to look out for.
Before we move on let’s be clear what we are talking about.
What is Risk?
“Risk is the likelihood of a body or event to cause harm.”
This should not be confused with Hazard.
What is Hazard?
“Hazard is the ability of a body or event to cause harm.”
From this we can see that in order to reduce the risks to our businesses we need to remove, reduce or protect against the hazards we come across. The way we do this is by carrying out a Risk Assessment
There are five steps to carrying out any risk assessment.
Step 1: Identify and record the hazards that are present, these fall broadly into five categories
Physical: such as pressure, heat, damp, noise, radiation and electricity
Chemical: such as dusts, fumes, chemicals, toxic materials and gases
Biological: such as infections, viruses and contagions
Ergonomic: work conditions, stress, RSI and man-machine interaction
The fifth one we'll come back to as it’s covered under specific legislation
Step 2: Identify the people that may be affected by the hazard
Paying particular attention to those groups that may be especially vulnerable such as the elderly, blind, young and disabled.
At this point it is possible to rank the severity of the risk, giving it a more tangible identity
Step 3: Remove, reduce the severity or Protect against, the Hazard.
The preference here is always to remove the hazard completely (rearrange items to avoid trips and impacts), if this cannot be done then reduce the severity of the hazard (use low voltage equipment or less aggressive chemicals) and as a last resort protect against the hazard (provide warnings or personal protective equipment).
Once again assuming that all the measures have been put into place, it will be possible to rank the severity of the residual risks. You can then establish whether the remaining risks are acceptable or if they need further action.
Step 4: Record, Plan, Inform and Train
Record the significant findings from steps 1 to 3 and what actions have or need to be taken as a result.
Prepare any plans or procedures that may be required in order to facilitate the actions
Inform and instruct all relevant people, co-operate with all concerned.
Provide any necessary training that may be required as a result of the assessment.
Step 5: Review
Having carried out the assessments they must be kept relevant, which means that they should be reviewed on a regular basis or when conditions change (such as work practices, new technology, legislation or results of monitoring)
Remember any revisions to the assessments must be communicated to those that need to know the results of those revisions.
Why have we gone to the trouble of doing these risk assessments and putting whatever precautions in place, is it because of our genuine concern for our fellow workers safety, is it because it makes financial sense to do it or is it our legal duty?
The answer is all of the above!
a. From a humanitarian and moral point of view, we do not want to cause or allow to be caused, harm to anybody
b. Research shows that investing in risk reduction leads to better company performance.
c. A good working environment is good business.
d. Staff feel that they are valued.
e. Your customers see a company that does it right and cares.
f. You avoid costs associated with disruption, sickness, investigation, down time, compensation claims, increased insurance premiums and loss of goodwill
g. And for those companies that cannot see the benefit, there are legal requirements, with quite hefty penalties for non compliance
Remember under step 1 of the risk assessment I said there was a fifth hazard, which was covered under its own legislation, this is Fire!
Potentially this one can be the most destructive, obviously to your staff, the public and visitors, but also to a business.
If your stock and premises are all destroyed, how are you going to trade?
This is why in March 2006 the “Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005” came into force, making it the responsibility of all owners or occupiers of commercial properties, to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment of those premises and put into action any necessary precautions and planning.
For the purpose of the legislation “Commercial” means anything non-domestic, so that includes churches, schools, libraries etc. In fact only military and some government buildings are exempt.
When we carry out our Fire Risk Assessment it’s worth remembering how fire works, for this we use the fire triangle.
Fire needs 3 elements to exist firstly Fuel (flammable gases, flammable liquids or flammable solids. Secondly Oxygen (The air around us, oxidizing agents and stored oxygen) and finally Ignition (Naked flame, faulty electrical appliances, hot processes and hot machinery)… Remove any one of these and the fire goes out.
We have seen that there are many types of hazards and therefore risks, surrounding our businesses, it is essential then that we Eliminate these risks, if we cannot do this, then we should Reduce the effect of them, and finally Protect against any residual risk.
Remember none of this will work if we do not communicate your findings and plans to those who may be affected.
This way our businesses should be safe environments in which to work, be protected from the disruption and costs that incidents can bring and demonstrate to others that we are responsible and considerate business people.
All of this has to be a cost effective benefit to all of our businesses, a benefit which you can take to the bank!
If you would like more information, then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org