Health and Safety Update - Feb 2011
Welcome to February’s Health & Safety Update.
This month we take a look at some guidance by the Health & Safety Executive to help you identify and evaluate the hazards in your workplace – so you can provide a safe working environment for all and avoid costly litigation.
Identifying hazards in your workplace
Start by understanding what a hazard is. Depending on the nature of your business, the types of hazards will vary.
It’s possible to separate the many types of workplace hazards into four main categories:
- Physical - hazards due to a transfer of energy between an object and a worker (e.g. falling from a height, a burn from a hot oven, or the loss of an arm in a power takeoff).
- Chemical - hazards due to contact with chemicals (e.g. cleaners, pesticides, fertilisers).
- Biological - hazards due to contact with living organisms or their by-products (e.g. bacteria, virus, grain dust).
- Ergonomic - poor workstation layout/design
Ask around and find out from employees. Your employees are a great source of information, since they are the ones who are responsible for carrying out the tasks on a daily basis, and hence, they will be aware of the potential hazards present at the workplace.
Check regularly for safety at the job. Assess your workers' daily tasks and check whether there are potential hazards at each step of the process. If at all you do come across any risks, inform the staff.
Examine the types of injuries and illnesses, as well as the severity and regularity of them at the workplace. These are just a few ways to help you identify workplace hazards.
Decide who might be harmed
For each hazard that you identify you need to be clear about who is at risk of being harmed. This will help you to decide on the best way to manage that risk. Instead of listing every single employee, identify them as groups of people. For example, visitors, contractors.
In each case, identify how they might be harmed, i.e. what type of injury or ill health might occur. For example, ‘shelf stackers may suffer back injury from repeated lifting of boxes’.
Evaluate the risks
Once you have identified the risks and who is most likely to be at harm, you must then decide what action to take. The law requires you to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm.
Please see the example risk assessment below as guidance:
|Substitution for less hazardous alternatives|
Engineering control such as extract ventilation
Personal protective equipment
Suitable storage facilities for substances and goods
Fire retardant furniture and fittings
Residual circuit breakers
Inspection and testing of systems and appliances
|Reduce the noise at source|
Demarcation of danger zones
It’s important that you record all significant findings and review at regular intervals, or when a change to practice or process occurs, or following an accident.
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