Health & Safety Assessment

09 July 2019

There are hazards and risks in almost every work environment. Even simple offices hold the potential to harm employees and visitors. 

Each workplace has potential hazards. These hazards come with their own levels of risk and challenges to make safe.

This is what health and safety risk assessments aim to clarify.

Understanding how to minimise risks and improve health and safety is vital to any business. A failure to address health and safety issues or even attempt to identify them is a criminal offence.

Employers risk facing employment tribunals, lawsuits, and even jail time.

To avoid harm coming to employees or hefty fines for a company, an employer must carry out health and safety assessments seriously.

By law, employers are required to protect employees and other users of the workplace from harm.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires employers to identify hazards in workplaces under their control and to assess the risk presented by such hazards.

This is the main purpose of a health and safety assessment of workplace risks.

What is a health and safety risk assessment?

A health and safety risk assessment is a review of a business measured against current health and safety legislation and accepted best practice. 

It includes an in-depth analysis of an organisation’s work activities and documentation. A comprehensive analysis will feature interviews with key members of staff, measured against current health and safety legislation and accepted best practice.

A health and safety assessment aims to:

  • Prevent bodily harm or injury.
  • Protect employers against hefty fines for breaching health and safety law.
  • Ensure the work environment is healthy and happy.
  • Keep workloads on schedule and maintain productivity.

Once you’ve established what your risk assessment process should prevent, you should understand what to look for.

A health and safety assessment should be tailored to the type of business you run. Some of the areas that employers typically investigate include:

  • Hazard reporting.
  • Staff consultation.
  • Accident reporting and investigation.
  • Risks to new and expectant mothers and young people.
  • Lone working conditions.
  • First aid equipment and accessibility.
  • Fire risks and safety.
  • Electrical safety.
  • Chemical substances and agents.

If you’re unsure how to create a comprehensive health and safety assessment, Peninsula has a free downloadable health and safety assessment.

Health and safety evaluations narrow down any areas that need attention to prevent harm to employees. This includes any risks or harm to a business in general including risks to company property.

Health and safety law states that you must put control measures in place to ensure the  workplace is safe and that hazards won’t harm anyone.

Reviewing your findings is also important. You must record your findings, prepare a safety statement and take practical steps to reduce the risks any hazards may cause. 

By doing so, your working environment will become safer with each review. This will improve employee morale and make it much less likely to incur fines or issues down the line.

Overall, it is important to assess health and safety risks for the following reasons:

  • To maintain safety: looking for potential injury risks and taking action to stop them. This prevents employees from getting hurt and slowing their workflow. Preventing injuries also protects a business from fines or personal injuries claims. 
  • Keep morale up: no one wants to feel unsafe in their workplace. When employees feel safe in their workplace, they will have higher morale while at work.
  • Avoid fines from external bodies: external bodies, such as the HSA, can inspect your workplace. If they deem it unsafe and lack certain standards of health and safety, they can punish a company with fines or in extreme cases criminal prosecution.

Health and safety assessment answers

Understanding what questions you should ask when creating a health and safety assessment is important. 

Different workplaces require different approaches, so you should consider how to create and conduct a health and safety assessment carefully.

Health and safety training helps with this. This is true whether it’s training a health and safety executive or helping to understand how to report health and safety in general.

However, there are several vital pieces of legislation that apply to almost every workplace in Ireland.

There are over 200 acts and statutory instruments that make up Irish health and safety law. The principal piece of legislation is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 (SHWA). 

Employers should always consider The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 too. It sets out employees’ entitlements to paid annual leave, rest breaks and daily and weekly rest periods.

There are numerous regulations that apply to various workplaces. These set out further details on the extent of the regulatory requirements under the SHWA. 

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations, 2007 to 2016 set out some more specific duties that employers need to bear in mind as the Regulations are relevant to majority of workplaces in Ireland.

Workplace health and safety assessment

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the body with overall responsibility for the administration and enforcement of health & safety at work in Ireland. 

The remit of the HSA includes monitoring compliance with the health & safety legislation (including prosecutions). 

A team of Environmental Health Officers carries out the compliance aspect of the HSA’s role. They may instruct the Gardaí or other authorised personnel to exercise powers of entry to inspect workplaces. 

They can take enforcement action by securing court orders and improvement or prohibition notices.

There are distinct types of risks that health and safety assessments should record. These include ‘accidents’, ‘hazards’ and ‘risks’.

  • An ‘accident’ is ‘an unplanned event that results in loss.’ 
  • A ‘hazard’ is ‘something that has the potential to cause harm.’ 
  • A ‘risk’ is ‘the likelihood and the severity of an injury or loss to the company that results from a hazard.’

Need help with health and safety assessments?

Failing to establish health and safety puts a business at considerable risk. Employers are likely to face an ever-expanding set of health and safety compliance requirements as a company grows. 

To cover health and safety in the workplace, a business should have the following in place:

  • A clearly defined health & safety policy. This should include relevant procedures and allocation of responsibilities.
  • A bespoke risk assessment of your workplace.
  • Regular health and safety management reviews.
  • Relevant health and safety training.

This is where Peninsula’s extensive health and safety services help.

We provide specialist software for health and safety, as well as 24-hour advice for any health and safety enquiries. For any other HR assistance, you can call our team of specialists on 0818 923 923.

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