Risk Assessments – Are you compliant?
As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on, it is easy to give in to COVID fatigue and stop thinking about COVID-19 risk in the workplace. However, it is essential that employers continue to manage the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, and that they keep their risk assessment and associated controls up to date.
Below we’ve put a brief guide to risk assessments together, but for those starting from scratch, we’ve developed a brand new online course! You can read more about that here!
Steps to risk assessment
The fabled “5 steps to risk assessment” is tried and trusted and very much pushed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Guidance on this is available on the HSE website (https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/index.htm). The key steps are highlighted below:
- Identify the hazards
- Who is at risk and how?
- Evaluate the risk and decide if existing controls are adequate or more are required
- Record the findings
- Review the assessment
There are of course, other methods that you can use, but with respect to the fundamentals of risk assessment, this is what your assessment should cover. If completed properly this should satisfy the requirement for completing a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
Let’s have brief look at each of these stages with respect to specifically assessing the risk of employees returning to work in the office at this present time:
Identify the hazards
Think about your current workplace. Does it provide a safe environment for all at this time with respect to transmission of COVID-19? We are now a good 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and at the present time, almost all legal restrictions are being lifted. The key is to ensure the transmission of COVID-19 within the workplace is minimised by all who are likely to occupy it and move within it.
Who is at risk and how?
Your employees, contractors, visitors, members of the public, just to name a few should come into your thinking. Think about who may be risk as result of the shift back to the office. Consider those particularly at risk. Are there those who may be classed as vulnerable? Do you have arrangements / systems in place to minimise the risk to this group?
Evaluate the risk and decide if existing controls are adequate or more are required
In this step there is a requirement to concentrate on what controls are in place at the moment to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 within the workplace. These should be considered in making a judgement on the level of risk. Are more controls required for the workplace?
Such controls may include home-working, staggered start times, hybrid (office and home) working, social distancing, provision of masks / face-coverings, requirement for the use of masks / face-coverings, provision of hand sanitiser, signage, cleaning regimes, physical screens, restrictions on meeting room occupancy, one-way systems and minimising pinch points. Also think about the provision of information to employees, visitors and contractors and if suitable emergency arrangements are in place for the workplace with respect to fire evacuation and first aid provision.
Depending on which jurisdiction you are in (i.e. England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) consult the relevant government guidance on managing COVID-19 in the workplace.
Record your findings
Ensure that your key findings are documented and communicated to those people at risk. Make sure your assessment is accessible if people want to read it. Make the assessment easy to understand and user friendly. This will promote compliance amongst those who are required to implement it.
Review the assessment
As we have seen over the last 18 months, the situation with the pandemic can be become fluid very quickly, so it is important to keep abreast of current developments and changes in government guidance and the impact of these on your risk assessment. Thus, the findings of your risk assessment should be reviewed frequently. This will allow your assessment to remain suitable and sufficient and ultimately effective in managing the risk of transmission.
In summary, here is a reminder of some of the key points:
- Remember the key is managing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Consult the government guidance on managing the risk of transmission. There is plenty of it and it will serve as a good reference point.
- Be clear with your methodology and ensure the key principles of risk assessment are addressed.
- Provide effective levels and streams of communication with the people who are at risk to ensure they know how they will be kept safe.
- Continue to review your risk assessment to ensure it remains suitable and sufficient.
If you need more help. Why not click the image below and book on to our excellent risk assessment course? Specially designed by our experienced in-house consultants, this course has been built to be delivered remotely so it can be easily fitted into your busy schedule. The course has been split into 2 modules that will be delivered at different times to avoid online training fatigue.