5 Steps to Master Risk Assessment
25 October 2023
What Is A Workplace Risk Assessment?
To handle workplace hazards, employers must conduct risk assessments for field service businesses. Not only that, but they are legally required to record the results if there are five or more people involved in the activity.
They are part of a risk management approach that ensures the health and safety of employees and the public when work is being carried out.
In a typical risk assessment, workers complete documents before starting a job to assess the risk. They check their environment, equipment, and resources and assign a risk level to their situation.
Risk assessments aim to:
✅ Identify hazards in a workplace
✅ Evaluate risks in a specific place
✅ Ensure action is taken or additional support is given when risk is higher than ‘low’.
After assessing risks, a team may need to change their plan to deal with a specific risk. This could mean getting more workers or finding special equipment to make the activity safer.
Why Are Field Service Risk Assessments Important?
Risk assessments are necessary to keep field workers and the public safe during work. They are required by law and help minimise risks. They can also help your business grow in terms of process and financials.
Let’s look at some of the reasons you should put time and resources into creating sufficient risk assessments for your business.
PROTECTING STAFF HEALTH AND SAFETY 🦺
When carried out properly, risk assessments can prevent injury and even loss of life.
Every workplace can have hazards or potential risks that can cause ill health, injury or damage to tools and equipment. Potential danger on any job can be reduced by following the five steps to conduct a risk assessment so that any risks are noted and the work is adapted to protect those who are carrying out the job.
With the right software, field service businesses can more easily manage risk assessments. Our job management software includes health and safety HR features, allowing you to attach risk assessments to individual jobs.
As well as ensuring all paperwork gets completed on time, having all documentation digitally available for staff means everyone involved has transparency about the location’s risks and the measures that have been taken to protect those working at the site.
AVOIDING UNNECESSARY COSTS 💶
If you don’t fill out effective risk assessments, you could cause a myriad of issues for your business. If someone is injured during their work, then you will have to cover sick pay, as well as employ cover for the job.
Costs associated with workplace accidents can involve large fines, legal fees, or even civil action — and the cost could be in the tens or hundreds of thousands for even a minor accident.
One example of many that we’ve witnessed involves a factory that was fined £274,000 after two workers were injured by moving machinery on separate occasions. A cost like this could be a devastating blow to the business and will most likely increase insurance premiums.
Failing to carry out risk assessments can devastate a business. Not only will you incur the financial loss, but you could also end up with reputational damage from any incidents. Moreover, clients or field workers may not feel safe after an incident occurs that you may have been able to prevent, which could further affect your bottom line due to loss of business and resources.
REDUCING YOUR LEGAL LIABILITY 📃
The first question to arise when an accident happens is ‘who is at fault?’. Ultimately, field service risk assessments reduce the likelihood of incidents happening and demonstrate to employees, potential clients, and external bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that ample steps have been taken to comply with the law and protect people from harm.
IMPROVING YOUR PROCESSES 🔄
Risk assessments aren’t just a means of solving problems – they can also be a great tool to use for controlling changes and improving your operational processes.
When filling out a risk assessment, your business may need to find alternative ways to carry out an operation or process more safely. Consistently looking at processes and ensuring they are continually being improved helps your team to work more efficiently and intelligently, as well as prioritising health and safety.
While risk assessments can be related to physical work activities, you can also use them as an opportunity to review and improve for key functions within the organisation. For example, carrying out a risk assessment before making an administrative change will allow operations managers to make clearer decisions about changing software, while conducting a risk assessment on your inventory can help facilities managers decide whether or not it’s necessary to purchase a new piece of machinery.
As well as bolstering your decision-making, conducting risk assessments can reduce friction when it’s time to implement a new system or process, as you’ll have already thought it through and considered the necessary steps to success.
How Field Service Management Software Makes Running Your Operation Easier
BigChange gives you the power to keep your employees working safely and ensure their information is secure and up-to-date. With our online driver behaviour analysis, risk assessments, method statements and vehicle walk-around checks, you can incorporate health and safety as a seamless part of your everyday, on-the-job routine.
Want to find out more? See how BigChange can help manage field service risk assessments. Arrange a free demo today.
Benefits of Risk Assessment
There are many ways that risk assessments can help you to boost your overall business operations, elevate your processes, and differentiate from your competitors.
1. ALLEVIATES COSTS 💶
Carrying out an in-depth workplace risk assessment and taking the necessary steps to reduce potential hazards will result in fewer illnesses and injuries. In addition, employees that feel safe at work are less likely to leave, meaning you’ll have decreased turnover and training costs.
If you don’t have the necessary measures in place to protect your workers, you could face a colossal financial loss. Not only could you be fined for non-compliance, but in the event of an accident, you may also have to pay compensation, replace damaged equipment, and train replacement staff. Your insurance premiums could also skyrocket, and your industry reputation will likely take a hit.
Workplace risk assessments don’t need to be expensive, and maintaining compliance is a minimal cost compared to the potential costs following an incident.
2. SAVES LIVES ➕
The Health and Safety Executive reports that 565,000 working people experienced an injury at work and 135 workers were killed in work-related accidents in the last year.
Workplace risk assessments not only lower the chance of employees suffering from minor illnesses or injuries, but they save lives.
If your workers use heavy machinery, are frequently exposed to toxic materials, or work with electricity, the probability of an accident increases exponentially. As such, it becomes even more crucial to conduct a thorough workplace risk assessment.
Highlighting potential risks to your workers helps them plan their work in a safer and more mindful manner, which reduces the likelihood of an accident.
3. LOWERS THE RISK OF LEGAL LIABILITY 📉
Whenever your employees report an incident, it will become necessary to identify who was at fault. If the affected individual or party believes that the company’s negligence caused the problem, it could result in serious legal proceedings and fines.
Since 2016, the Sentencing Council introduced new guidelines that outlined harsher penalties and fines for organisations that fail to competently manage health and safety matters. As a result, the average fine has reached £150,000.
When conducted with due care and diligence, a sufficient risk assessment can significantly minimise the chance that your business will be found guilty of non-compliance. Instead, you can rest assured that you’ve taken the correct and reasonable steps towards keeping everyone safe on-site.
4. ENHANCES EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION AND PRODUCTIVITY 🛠
Workplace risk assessments eradicate the barriers that prevent your employees from doing their jobs and provide them with the correct tools to complete tasks.
Instead of wasting time trying to resolve issues resulting from unsuitable working practices or equipment, they will be able to carry on with their work stress-free and be much more productive.
Plus, a safe and healthy workplace results in happier staff, fewer sick days and more company loyalty. Organisations with highly engaged employees enjoy 21% greater profitability, proving that employee happiness can make a big difference to your bottom line.
5. MAINTAINS YOUR COMPANY’S REPUTATION 🏅
Companies that effectively prevent workplace-related illnesses and accidents are able to build a strong reputation and a positive relationship with their employees and clients. A bad experience can lead to loss of business – companies risk losing 22% of business if potential customers find a negative article in their search results.
Maintaining a safe work environment and avoiding accidents is imperative for helping your business to grow and remain competitive. Make an effort upfront to carry out a comprehensive workplace risk assessment and put sufficient preventative measures in place. As a result, you may find that you’re able to win more work.
How to Carry out a Workplace Risk Assessment
The purpose of a risk assessment is to reduce all reasonably foreseeable risks to as low as is reasonably practicable. The Health and Safety Executive recommends employers follow the following five steps when carrying out a workplace risk assessment.
1. Identify the Hazards
Employers have a responsibility to assess the health and safety risks faced by their employees. You must thoroughly review what may cause harm and be potential hazards. You can do this in several ways, such as walking around the workplace or asking your employees.
2. Spot who may be harmed and how
Once you have identified your potential hazards, you need to consider how your employees, visitors, contractors, or members of the public may be harmed and how serious this could be.
3. Evaluate risks and decide on control measures
Once you know who may be harmed and how, the next step is to prevent this from happening. Consider if you can remove the hazard altogether or put appropriate control measures in place to decrease the level of risk.
You are not expected to eliminate every risk, but you do need to do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures necessary to control the real risk in terms of cost, time or trouble.
Step 4) Record your findings
If you employ five or more people, once you have completed the previous steps, it is a legal requirement to record your findings. You should then share your findings with your employees.
Step 5) Review your risk assessments
Workplaces rarely stay the same, and therefore risk assessments need to be continually reviewed and updated. For example, your control measures may no longer be effective, or you may have had significant changes in the workplace such as staff, new machinery, substances or equipment, or business processes that have changed over time.
Common Mistakes People Make With Risk Assessments
Risk assessments are one of the most important ways that your business can satisfy rules and regulations, which is why it’s so important to make sure that you’re implementing them in an effective way. These are some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen field service operators make when conducting risk assessments.
1. Set and forget it
Once completed, a risk assessment document cannot just be left indefinitely. If there is an incident, or a change at site that makes you think it may no longer cover all that it needs to, it’s time to review. If not, be sure to review them at least annually.
Top tip: Set up reminder to ensure that essential document reviews aren’t forgotten.
2. Use vague wording
What is ‘heavy’ varies from person to person. If you mean 25kg, say it. Equally, if there is a piece of protective clothing or equipment required, specify exactly which this is rather than saying ‘wear protective clothing’.
Top tip: Have a member of another team or colleague read through your document and confirm wording is all clear and easy to understand.
3. Assume that one size fits all
It is often a good idea to use other risk assessments to help inform another. This can prevent contradictions and ensure that consistent language is used. But if the same equipment is to be used at a different site, don’t forget to add or remove information to reflect a different environment.
Top tip: Check out industry templates and standards (available online) for guidance.
4. Doing it from the office (or home)
A risk assessment isn’t about what should happen, but about what could happen. To spot these things, you need to have risk assessments filled out by someone on site.
Top tip: Ensure you have processes in place that make sure that both generic and dynamic (i.e. new sites/jobs) risk assessments are completed by the most appropriate people.
5. Filling it and filing it
Once completed, a risk assessment shouldn’t just be filed away. If people don’t know about the risks of safeguards, they won’t be able to protect themselves. Ensure that you share the findings with all relevant parties.
Top tip: Store site specific risk assessments centrally, (ideally on a cloud-based system,) so that all those re-visiting a site will have access to historic information.
Avoid these common pitfalls and you’ll be well placed to keep your field teams safe.
Our job management platform is designed to incorporate risk assessments at all essential stages of a job, from filling out job sheets to providing you with visibility on vehicle tracking and other key business insights. Get in touch today to learn how we can help you onboard BigChange to fit your exact business needs.
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