By far the best way to help prevent common workplace hazards is to carry out a comprehensive hazard assessment on the premises. See our links at the end of this guide for examples and resources.
The type of risk assessment carried out, and what it covers, will depend on the nature of the organisation and the work done on the premises. However, they must always consider everyone who uses the site, and who could be affected by the outcomes.
The aim should always be to reduce the risks as much as is 'reasonably practicable'. 'Reasonably practicable' is a legal term that means employers must balance the cost of steps that they could take to reduce a risk against the degree of risk presented.
When carrying out a hazard or risk assessment, safety hazards are usually the most obvious ones to look out for. They’re generally easily detectable by asking yourself some simple questions, such as:
- How likely is an accident, injury or illness to occur here if a hazardous situation did arise, and how serious might it be for the staff involved?
- Are the employees working with any dangerous equipment, tools, or materials?
- Does any aspect of the work area or building layout pose a direct risk to staff? (Be mindful of potential blind spots, poor lighting or low visibility areas.)
- Do any aspects of the building or site’s condition pose a risk?
- Is there an obvious risk of falling, slipping or tripping in any particular area?
- Are all walkways and road areas stable, level, and free of unnecessary obstructions?
- Have there been accidents or incidents on these premises or among this workforce before – and if so, how were they caused, and what action was taken subsequently?
After a hazard assessment has been carried out, it’s vital to act on any areas that pose an obvious potential risk. There are two main areas to focus on:
Engineering measures – i.e. physical alterations and improvements to the building, environment or equipment being used. Good examples of engineering controls for hazard mitigation are:
- Enhanced protective or safety wear
- Replacement of old or worn tools
- Installation of new safety monitoring/response systems
Administrative measures – i.e. organisational improvements and updates that either reduce the risk of a problem occurring in the first place or increase workers’ ability to respond quickly and efficiently in the event of an incident. Administrative controls for hazard mitigation might include:
- Improved shift rotation patterns
- Better production line scheduling
- Better systems for reporting risks or concerns
- Increased frequency of team meetings to discuss or train on safety protocols