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Unlike office workers, a field workforce is susceptible to a broader range of risks because their location can change with every job. Diverse risk factors at each site make filling out risk assessments crucial so that your workers, assets, and reputation all remain intact and protected.

This article will be a guide on why risk assessments are so crucial to business operations.

What are risk assessments?

Risk assessments are the paperwork that businesses must complete to manage any dangers that a workplace presents. It’s a legal requirement for any employer to carry out risk assessments, and the results of each risk assessment must be recorded if there are five or more people involved in the activity.

Using risk assessments is a simple way to eliminate or reduce risks to the health, safety or wellbeing of employees or members of the public when carrying out business activities. Their primary purpose is to:

  • Identify hazards in a workplace
  • Evaluate risks in a specific place
  • To ensure action is taken or additional support is given in circumstances where risk is higher than ‘low’. For example, steps that would result from a risk assessment would be supplying more workers for a job or additional equipment to make the activity less risky.

Why are risk assessments important?

Apart from being a legal requirement, managing the risks that your field-based workforce is exposed to when you send them out on jobs is essential. 

It’s important to know that routine tasks don’t require a new risk assessment every time for mobile workers. A fresh review is needed only when the setting changes or the activity being carried out alters the level of risk to the worker.

So why are risk assessments important to your business? Let’s look at some of the reasons you should put time and resource into creating sufficient risk assessments for your business operation:

Protecting your staff health and safety

When carried out properly, risk assessments can prevent injury and even loss of life when large machinery is involved. 

Every workplace could have hazards or potential risks that could cause ill health, injury or even 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. 

Software such as BigChange includes health and safety HR features, allowing you to attach risk assessments to individual jobs. Having all documentation digitally available for staff to access means everyone involved has transparency about the location’s risks and any 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 employing cover for the job. Costs associated with workplace accidents come in the form of fines, legal fees, or even civil action — and the cost could be in the tens or hundreds of thousands for even a minor accident. For example, a factory 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 your insurance premiums.

Not only will you incur the financial loss, but you could also end up with reputational damage from any incidents. 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?’.

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

When filling out a risk assessment, your business will find alternative ways to carry out an operation or process safely. In addition, this part of the risk assessment process is iterative, meaning companies can revisit it often to ensure that risk is at an acceptable level. 

Consistently looking at processes for carrying out work and ensuring they are continually being improved ensures that safety and security are always front of mind for your employees.

While risk assessments can be related to physical work activities, the company can also use them for key functions within the organisation. For example, carrying out a risk assessment before making a change will allow operations managers to make clearer decisions around changing software and facilities management systems to purchasing a new piece of machinery for their workers. So, the results of the risk assessment will mean minimal disruption during implementation and no increase in risk when it comes to security. 

How field service management software makes running your operation easier

We’ve seen that risk assessments aren’t just a means of solving problems but can be a great vehicle for your business to control changes and improvements to your operational processes.

Your people are your most important asset. 

BigChange gives you the power to keep your employees working safely and ensure their personal information is secure and up-to-date.

With our online driver behaviour analysis, risk assessments, method statements and vehicle walk-around checks, you can rest assured that health and safety are a number one priority.

Just doing a risk assessment isn’t enough. This may sound obvious, but they have to be done right. Here are a few things not to do, and what to do instead.

If you’re looking for the steps you must take when carrying out a workplace risk assessment, check out The Five Steps to a successful Risk Assessment.

  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 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 isn’t just to be filed away, job done, tick. 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.

A risk assessment plays a crucial part in Occupational Health and Safety management as employers are required by law to protect employees, and others, from harm. 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 (HSE) recommends employers follow the following five steps when carrying out a workplace risk assessment:

Step 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.

Step 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. 

Step 3) Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures

Once you know who may be harmed and how, the next step is to prevent this from happening. You need to 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 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 RA

Your work isn’t finished quite yet as workplaces very rarely stay the same, and therefore risk assessments need to be continually reviewed and updated where necessary. For example, your control measures may no longer be effective, or you’ve had significant changes in the workplace such as staff, new machinery, substances or equipment, or business processes that have changed over time. 

For more in-depth information from H&S Expert Nigel Stevens, Health Safety Environment Consultant, join our webinar on Wednesday, the 18th of August at 2pm. You can register now to book your place here: https://webinar.ringcentral.com/webinar/register/WN_L-F3lMJmQWy73-v2VR1A0A

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