As part of managing the health and safety of your activities, you must control the risks associated with them. To do this you need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This process is called "Risk Assessment" and it is a legal requirement.
The requirements for Risk Assessment apply to all people carrying out work activities for the University of Bath. This covers work-activities carried out by employees, Post-Graduate Research students carrying out research work, visiting academics, contractors working directly for the University and volunteers. Students carrying out work activities in addition to their studies or research (for example when acting as "demonstrators") are considered to be employees when carrying out these activities. Work activities includes work activities both on and off campus.
Risk assessments should consider workers and anyone else who might be affected by the Universities work activities. This could include students, members of the public, contractors and anyone else who might be affected by your work.
"Hazard" - anything with the potential to cause harm. This could include psychological factors as well as physical, chemical, biological or radio-chemical agents.
"Risk" - the likelihood of a hazard causing harm.
"Severity" - the extent of any harm caused
"Suitable and Sufficient" - There is no absolute legal definition for this term, but guidance indicates that to achieve this standard, the risk assessment should:
- Show that a proper check has been made by considering all foreseeable significant hazards.
- Identify who might be affected.
- Reflect the scale of the work carried out, taking account of the number of people involved.
- Identify reasonable control measures that if applied will reduce the risk of harm or loss as low as is reasonably practicable.
- Be clear and straightforward to understand.
Employees and / or their representatives should be involved in the process.
Who is responsible for carrying out risk assessments?
The responsibility for carrying out risk assessments sits with the employer. At the University, the responsibility for day to day management of health and safety matters is delegated through line management. As such, line managers are responsible for making sure that risk assessments are completed for all works that they oversee, supervise or manage. Where people have responsibility for supervising the work of non-employees, such as Post Graduate Research students or volunteers, then they will have the responsibility for making sure risk assessments are completed for the work activities carried out by these people.
When do I need a risk assessment?
Sensible risk management is about taking practical steps to protect people from real harm and suffering.
You should carry out a risk assessment before you do any work which presents a risk of injury or ill health.
You do not need to include insignificant risks. You do not need to include risks from everyday life unless your work activities increase the risk.
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is a systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a projected activity or undertaking.
Risks should be reduced to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures in the following order of priority, termed the Hierarchy of Control:
1) Elimination - Redesign the job or replace a substance so that the hazard is removed or eliminated.
2) Substitution - Replace the material or process with a less hazardous one.
3) Engineering controls - for example use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height, install or use additional machinery to control risks from dust or fume or separate the hazard from operators by methods such as enclosing or guarding dangerous items of machinery/equipment. Give priority to measures which protect collectively over individual measures.
4) Administrative Controls – Identify and implement procedures to work safely. For example: reducing the time workers are exposed to hazards; prohibiting use of mobile phones in hazardous areas; increasing safety signage, and performing risk assessments.
5) Personal protective clothes and equipment - Only after all the previous measures have been tried and found ineffective in controlling risks to a reasonably practicable level, must personal protective equipment (PPE) be used. For example, where you cannot eliminate the use of a hazardous substance or use work equipment such as local exhaust ventilation to minimise the exposure (should one occur). If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted by the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.
What type of risk assessment should I produce?
There are 3 types of risk assessment:
Generic – when a group of tasks are similar potentially across a number of similar locations, e.g. when there are a number of offices in a single building; one “office safety” risk assessment would be appropriate.
Specific – this is for a specific task where the hazards and risks are clearly defined, e.g. an experiment in a laboratory.
Individual – a risk assessment that is for a person rather than a task. This may be due to a disability or physical injury that requires “reasonable adjustments” to their work environment and/or tasks carried out. A Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment would also fall into this category.
How do I complete a risk assessment?
The following steps will enable you to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment:
1) Identify the Hazards
Involve persons carrying out the work activity
Visit the work area
Consult manufacturers instruction/data sheets
Review accident/ill-health records
Include non-routine operations, e.g. maintenance, cleaning, waste disposal
2) Determine who might be harmed and how
Identify groups of people, e.g. lab users, cleaners, members of the public
Consider persons with particular requirements:
- Young persons
- People with disabilities
- New and Temporary workers
- New and Expectant mothers
- Lone workers
- Home workers
Examples of how persons may be harmed include:
- Physical injuries
- Impacts on Mental health (either by exacerbating an existing mental health condition or resulting in an emergent mental health condition, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- Impacts on Health (for example by causing disease, illness or other health conditions)
3) Evaluate the Risks and Implement Control Measures
Determine the level of risk (based on severity and likelihood)
Identify control measures to reduce risk as far as reasonably practicable
4) Record ONLY SIGNIFICANT Findings
Required by law
Needs to be suitable and sufficient (reflective of the scale of the work being carried out, all significant hazards should be identified and proportional control measures applied to reduce the risk to a tolerable level. Clear and straightforward to understand)
Readily accessible to all users
5) Implement Control Measures
Apply hierarchy of control
Involve those carrying out the work to ensure precautions will work in practice
6) Regularly Review the Risk Assessment
Have there been any significant changes?
Are there further improvements to be made?
Has a problem been identified?
Has anything been learnt from accidents or near misses?
Ensure the risk assessment stays up to date
All persons undertaking the work activities must be trained in the content of the risk assessment and this training should be recorded.