Why do a risk assessment?

A number of us Office Managers will likely have heard of a risk assessment before now; but do we know exactly what it is, why we need to do it and what it should show us? Our blog has a look at the basics and how it may be a requirement in your office management role…

What is it?

A risk assessment (where Health & Safety is concerned) is the evaluation of any hazards or risks that may lead to an accident or incident, or as the dictionary defines it “a systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a projected activity or undertaking”. The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) has more information about risk assessments here.

Risk assessments should be carried out for any day to day working environments and one-off of frequent events that may carry risk. E.g. you should have a general office risk assessment that covers areas such as slips, trips and falls, [add more in here from mine] and off the back of this your Health & Safety policy and procedures can be written and implemented. You should also have risk assessments for chemicals on site even cleaning products and toners for your printer to understand the hazards and how to handle any incidents with these; for stress management; and, for circumstances such as at risk individuals to include those who have a permanent or temporary disability and expectant mothers.

For contractors who carry out work on site whether part of a project or on-going contractual work they should produce risk assessments and more than likely method statements (known as RAMS), for you to review and approve. This process would form part of a permit to work system which may need to be provided to your building management team or other if that is their procedure. 

Back to the risk assessment basics… 

One effective way to start this or check and existing document is by walking around your office / site and identifying everything you see that is a possible hazard or risk and noting down what procedures or systems of work / assets you have in place to mitigate this. Once done, consider all the items you need to manage that are not necessarily visible such as stress, outbreaks etc. Once your list is compiled, detail the hazards in a table under one column and what the risk could be e.g. let’s take toners for our printers, if the product is touched what might happen to our skin? Perhaps it’s irritation or rash, or allergic reaction. 

Next give the risk a score of the consequence in terms of severity e.g. death being the most critical and perhaps a cut or bruise being the least. Then give the item a likelihood score eg how likely is it that this hazard will occur? Times the two numbers together to give the overall risk.

Then detail current control measures or measures you will implement to reduce the risk and give it a new consequence and likelihood score equating to the reduced total risk score. Remember that anything you detail in terms of control here should be implemented and detailed where relevant in your policies. 

Once you’ve done this for all risks your risk assessment is ready. It should be reviewed regularly, I’d recommend at least annually and / or when there is a change for example in location, products, risk etc. Once in place you can then start to create your policies and procedures that you have detailed to mitigate the risks as control measures.

And that’s it! Remember if you need any support with risk assessments or an easy-to-use template to get you started you can join our Office Management Portal here.