Employers may already have in place some safety measures. The risk assessment will tell whether these are adequate.
Employers must ensure they have done all that the law requires. Remember that all safety and health laws provide guidance on how to assess the risks and establish appropriate safeguards. For example, there are legal requirements on preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery. Then ensure that generally accepted industry standards are in place. But do not stop there – because the law also says that you must do what is reasonably practicable to keep the workplace safe. The real aim is to make all risks small by adding to existing precautions if necessary.
Improving safety and health need not cost a lot. For instance, placing a mirror on a dangerous blind corner to help prevent vehicle accidents, or putting some non-slip material on slippery steps, are inexpensive precautions considering the risks. Sometimes changing the way a job is done can reduce the risk of an accident.
Employers need to ask themselves:
- Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
- Can I change the way the job is done so as to make it safer?
- If not, what safety precautions are necessary to control this risk?
How Do I Control Risk?
Common sense tells us that life cannot be totally risk-free. However, employers are required to do all that is reasonably practicable to minimize the risk of injury. Employers will have done all that is reasonably practicable if they have:
- Exercised care in putting in place necessary preventive measures
- Have identified the hazards and risks relating to the place of work
- Have put in place appropriate measures such that it would be grossly disproportionate to do more some common methods of controlling risk are:
- Replacing a hazardous system of work with a less hazardous system, e.G. Preassembling components on the ground to reduce the need to work at a height, or using mechanical aids to reduce or eliminate the need for manual handling
- Replacing a substance with a less hazardous substance, e.G. Replacing a flammable with a non-flammable substance
- Designing the workplace to reduce risk, e.G. Providing guardrails around roof-mounted equipment or designated walkways and crossing points through areas with moving vehicles ensuring a clean and tidy workplace to prevent trips and slips
- Extracting or containing the hazard at source, e.G. Providing a fume cupboard with extraction
- Adapting the work to the individual, e.G. Providing adjustable height tables or chairs to reduce muscle injuries
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- Ventilating an area of the workplace where extraction at source is not possible
- Isolating the process or the worker (e.G. Switching off and isolating machines before carrying out repairs or alterations)
- Safeguarding machinery, e.G. Providing interlocked guards that switch off the machine if someone tries to gain entry to dangerous parts of it
- Providing adequate training and supervision
- Establishing emergency planning procedures, including first aid
- Providing protective equipment, clothing or signs (they should be used only as a last resort after all other ways of eliminating the hazard have been fully explored)
- Setting up adequate health-surveillance programmes including pre-placement or regular health checks where appropriate
- Analysing and investigating accidents (including ill-health) and dangerous occurrences
- Using permit-to-work systems or safe working procedures
- Putting in place adequate welfare facilities
- Establishing other policies as appropriate, e.G. To eradicate bullying, etc