Risk assessment is the process of identifying and controlling risk in the workplace. It is a systematic, step-by-step process used to identify potential and actual threats to the safety of employees, clients, or business partners and to identify measures and procedures to mitigate such threats.
Risk assessment is done in the workplace to identify what threats or potential threats exist, how they might happen, why they are dangerous, and what the most effective preventive actions are. In an organization, it is the responsibility of employers to prevent health and safety hazards from occurring, through risk assessment, thereby helping to protect the health and safety of employees, business partners, and the organization.
In a nutshell, risk assessment ensures that workplace hazards are identified and, through risk management, controlled or eliminated. The process of risk assessment typically begins by determining the level of risk at a workplace.
This can be done by analyzing the risk and the likelihood of an event occurring (or the potential for that event to occur) and the impact if it did occur. A “risk” is defined as “the possibility of an unfavorable outcome in a specific event or activity, and it encompasses all the factors that could cause this event to occur and its consequences.” To identify and control the risks at a workplace, organizations typically use a risk assessment approach.
Risk assessment is based on the following framework:
- Definition of a hazard
- Identifying the hazard and the probability of it occurring
- Measuring the consequences if it occurred
- Taking preventive and protective measures If an organization has no knowledge or awareness of a particular type of hazard that could endanger the health and safety of workers, then they must have some understanding of this type of hazard and it must be identified and assessed.
The different steps in risk assessment include:
- Identifying the hazards
- Measuring the severity
- Understanding the consequences
- Taking the preventive measures
- Evaluating the effectiveness of the preventive measures taken
Identify the hazards:
An organization must first identify the types of hazards they will be addressing before carrying out a risk assessment. The following examples will help you to understand what an organization is addressing.
Examples of occupational hazards
- Fire hazards.
- Hazardous substances
- Machinery hazards
- Safety-critical processes and conditions
- Safety and security of employees
- Occupational health
- Physical environment and working conditions.
An organization will need to identify and document the following:
- A definition of the types of hazards
- Understanding of the various types of hazardous materials that may be present
- Assessment of the severity of the hazards
- Estimation of the probability of occurrence
- Ability to assess the potential severity of the consequences of the hazards
- Ability to keep hazards from happening
- Identification of the best available methods for minimizing the impact of the hazards on the health and safety of employees
Identify the consequences of the hazards:
The effects of a hazard will depend on the level and nature of the hazards. Therefore, an organization will need to assess the degree to which the hazard is present in the organization, the nature of the hazard (e.g. toxic fumes, flying objects), and the likely severity of the consequences if the hazard is present. The impact of a particular hazard will depend on its severity, frequency, duration, level, and the time it takes to identify or recognize the hazard.
For example, an organization’s first-aid procedure could be the organization’s risk assessment. The organization can identify potential threats and measures and assess the likelihood of any incident occurring and what it will do in response.
As another example, an organization’s safety policy may be considered an element of their risk assessment, because it identifies potential threats and measures for preventing or responding to hazardous occurrences. Understanding the consequences of the hazard would involve determining its possible severity and frequency and estimating the time it takes to identify the hazard.
If the job that is being done has a high potential for injury, then it is necessary to assess the risk and determine what action needs to be taken to reduce the risk and/or eliminate the risk.