Sound management of safety and health at workplace is very important, especially if employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals. Employers are obliged by law to control the risks in their working places in order to create a safer and healthier workplace. Risk assessment is the first key step in preventing accidents at work and occupational diseases.
Firstly, we should define the terms “hazard” and “risk”. Hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer etc. Risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.
Risk assessment process aims to remove a hazard or reduce the level of its risk by adding the appropriate precautions or control measures. When an efficient risk assessment plan is implemented, it helps employers:
- Create awareness of potential hazards and risks.
- Identify who may be at risk (employees, cleaners, visitors, contractors, the public, etc) and why.
- Determine if they should maintain their existing control measures or take more effective.
- Prevent injuries or illnesses from happening when done at the design or planning stage.
- Prioritize hazards and control measures.
If you are an employer and you don’t know how to assess the risks in your workplace, these 5 steps will help you comply with the law and control exposure to chemicals in your workplace. All you have to do is:
- Identify the hazards that may cause harm
- Decide who might be harmed and how
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions or measures
- Record your significant findings
- Review your assessment and update if necessary
Remember that you are not legally obliged to do a risk assessment, if you have less than 5 employers. It should be mentioned that employees have legal responsibilities, too. They must cooperate with their employer’s efforts to improve health and safety, for example they have to wear protective equipment (when it is necessary) and get the adequate training.
The OSHA website provides the information you need to help you identify and manage the risks from chemicals at your workplace.