How to improve workplace safety with a risk assessment

A risk assessment is the first step towards creating a safe workplace. It is often carried out by the health and safety manager, though a general manager may take care of this if the company is small. This article tells you what a risk assessment is and how to use one to improve workplace safety.

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1. What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is the first step in a risk management process has three elements to it. The first is to identify which risks there are in a work environment. The next is to consider the likelihood of these risks actually becoming a reality, while the third is to estimate the consequences of the risks.

2. What is the aim of a risk assessment?

A workplace risk analysis has one aim: to improve safety in the workplace. The risk assessment identifies what safety solutions are required to control risks in the workplace and prevent them from occurring (again) in the future.

3. What does a risk assessment involve?

A risk assessment has two components: analysis and assessment. The first step is to analyse the potential hazards and risks that may arise in the workplace. Examples include risks to workers when performing their duties, risks associated with the use of forklift trucks, and so on. For each risk, the probability of occurrence is determined and the consequences are calculated.

Specific measures are then taken based on the analysis and evaluation stages:

  • Preventive measures to avoid an accident or significantly reduce the likelihood of a hazardous situation occurring.
  • Detection measures to determine the amount of damage after an accident.
  • Mitigation measures to reduce the amount of damage if an accident occurs.
  • Corrective measures to ensure a return to the state preceding the accident.

4. What are the methods for conducting a risk assessment?

There are several ways to conduct a risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E), or risk assessment for short. They can be divided into two groups: participatory methods and quantitative methods. Participatory methods assess risks based on employee input. Quantitative methods translate risks into (financial) figures.

Three well-known risk assessment methods are the fishbone strategy and the what-if method. One example of a quantitative method is the Kinney method. All have their advantages and disadvantages. The method chosen depends on the size and nature of the company for which the risk assessment is being prepared. The type of commodity also plays a role. For example, small companies may only require a "what-if" analysis, while larger companies may need a more in-depth analysis.

5. What happens after a risk assessment?

Once you have completed a risk assessment, the next logical step is to create a traffic plan. This is where you map the traffic flows in your workplace and identify the bottlenecks. Want to know more? Read our tips for creating a traffic plan here.