Workplace assessment

Under the law, all UK employers must protect their employees and others in the office from harm. And all employers must – under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – identify injury and illness risks at work and prevent hazards from occurring.

Risk assessment is just one step in the complete process to control workplace risks. For most businesses – significantly smaller businesses – the steps are pretty straightforward. For production-oriented companies, these might be a bit more complex. This article will dive into it from the top to learn more about the different aspects.

What is a workplace risk assessment?

So, why do we have risk assessments in the workplace? At its core, a workplace assessment is a straightforward way to collect information anonymously from a company’s workforce on how they see their work in terms of well-being.

It provides a fundamental baseline to help organizations track development and keep updated action logs to help improve health and reduce sick leave.

It also provides employers insights into where they need to organize investments in well-being – both mentally and physically – that go beyond the rather basic legal requirements for health and safety.

Ultimately, numerous studies show that ongoing risk assessments with consistent efforts around the work environment provide the best conditions for improving well-being. You simply take a more systematic approach, making it easier to identify challenges that can lead to sick leave. High sickness absence comes at both high human and financial costs, why a workplace assessment helps understand internal factors to improve.

Source: UK Gov

You might also like: Everything you must know about taking sick leave in the UK.

a group of coworkers sitting around a wooden table brainstorming

Five steps to manage risk

There are many types of workplace assessments and several ways to do it. However, as a company, you must complete five separate phases to get around the various departments and hazards sufficiently and unlock complete insight into the work environment. You can do it yourself or appoint a competent staff member to help you.

We will go through the five steps momentarily, but just to highlight them all, they are as follows:

1. Identify hazards
2. Assess the risks
3. Control the risks
4. Record your findings
5. Review the controls

smiling man at an office wearing a green shirt looking directly into the camera

Identify hazards

The first step is to identify the working hazards across the organization. Have a look around your workplace and start to think about potential risks and dangers:

- How people work and use equipment
- What chemicals and substances are used for cleaning, warehousing, etc.
- What safe or unsafe work practices exist around the office
- The general state of the office and how wear and tear affect it.

Also, it is a good idea to hold meetings and talks with management, employees, and safety reps as you get a second look at the different hazards and understand elements that you perhaps not identify yourself.

In addition, you can also allow workers to fill out a workplace assessment report, which will enable you to understand the elements that employees do not want to share directly. Additionally, this allows a free space for those vulnerable to express their opinions.

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Assess the risks

Once you identify the work environment hazards, the next step is to describe and assess them in detail. Here, you must figure out how severe and frequent the various challenges are and their influence on everyday life. This must amount to an action plan on how to solve the issues so that conditions improve and do not just disappear into oblivion.

This action plan includes:

- What are you already doing to control the hazards?
- What actions must you take to explore it further?
- Who is going to carry out implementations?
- When must action be completed by?

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Control the risks

Some challenges are easy to solve and quick to implement. It’s all about executing immediately. Other issues, however, require a slightly longer processing time, which is why you must stick to your action plan and make sure they are prioritized correctly. If you have a few controls to do that require a longer time, always consider the following:

- Redesign how to do the jobFinding new ways to replace the materials, machinery, or process
- Organize work to reduce exposure to the aboveIdentify and implement measures to work safely as soon as possible
- Provide protective equipment and ensure workers wear it.

After setting up the control plan, you need to start putting them into place. You are not expected to complete everything in one go but try and find a decent balance between the risk of doing nothing versus investing cost.

women standing over pieces of paper doing business

Record your findings

If you have five or more staff members on your payroll, you must record all significant findings. Such findings include:

-The actual hazards
- Staff who might be at risk and how
- Your efforts to control the hazards.

To help you, you can find a workplace risk assessment template issued by the Health & Safety Executive to help you. However, do not get lost in the paperwork, as the essential efforts focus on the things that cause harm.

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Review the controls

To make sure your efforts are practical, you must review the controls now and then. If there are changes to the workplace, this could force new potential risks to staff through new processes or equipment.

It is also good to include new findings in your review that staff members may have found since the last workplace assessment report.

Source: HSE UK & Unison UK

two female coworkers working on a project

A display screen equipment assessment

If you have staff members who spend more than an hour a day in front of a computer, you need to provide a digital screen equipment assessment.

A DSE assessment contributes to creating better workplace satisfaction and daily life for employees stuck in front of the screen for most of their day. As such, you must conduct a risk assessment around the employee’s workstation to make sure that it meets all needs and to ensure that the worker understands how to use their equipment correctly

If you are a DSE worker yourself, you are entitled to an assessment when you start a new job or move to a new workstation within your current role. Sitting in front of the computer for most of the day can cause fatigue, eye strain, upper limb disorders and backache. This especially goes if the workstation is poorly set up.

A DSE assessment will look at all aspects of the workstation, including desk and chair setup, monitor positioning, and keyboard and mouse use. Additionally, it will identify any issues which may lead to poor posture or repetitive strain risks. The assessment will also recommend modifications for a proper setup and new equipment if relevant.
Working with a display screen equipment (DSE) guide from the Health & Safety Executive will give you all the details you need to know about meeting your workers’ needs.

dark blue office chair in seen from afar

If you are having trouble figuring out where to start, you can find a workplace assessment example and risk assessment templates to help you get started and get a complete overview of what to do. You can find all of this here.

Source: HSE UK