What do employers need to do for risk assessment?

A detailed description of the risk assessment process

Essentially a risk assessment is a detailed, legally required review of the events and objects that are involved in your work and how they might harm others. You can then determine if the precautions that you have in place are sufficient to prevent injury or illness. You have to first decide if a hazard is potentially significant, and if the precautions you have in place minimize that risk. In the majority of situations the hazards will be obvious and relatively few and far between. Remember, even if you delegate the responsibility for the risk assessment it is the owner who is ultimately responsible for the safety of the business.

There are considered to be five steps you should take when performing a comprehensive risk assessment

Step 1 – Identify the hazards within your premises

You need to identify:

• Sources of ignition such as naked flames, heaters or some commercial processes

• Sources of fuel such as built-up waste, display materials, textiles or overstocked products

• Sources of oxygen such as air conditioning or medicinal or commercial oxygen supplies

Step 2 – Identify people at risk

You will need to identify those people who may be especially at risk such as:

• People working near to fire dangers

• People working alone or in isolated areas (such as in roof spaces or storerooms)

• Children or parents with babies

• The elderly or infirm and people who are disabled

Step 3 – Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk

Evaluate the level of risk in your premises. You should remove or reduce any fire hazards where possible and reduce any risks you have identified (including opportunities for deliberate ignition). For example, you should:

• Replace highly flammable materials with less flammable ones

• Make sure you separate flammable materials from sources of ignition

• Have a safe-smoking policy

When you have reduced the risk as far as possible, you must assess any risk that is left and decide whether there are any further measures you need to take to make sure you provide a reasonable level of fire safety.

Step 4 – Record, plan, instruct, inform and train

In this step you should record, plan, instruct, inform and train.

You will also need to make an emergency plan, tailored to your premises. It should include the action that you need to take in the event of a fire in your premises or any premises nearby. You will need to give staff, and occasionally others, such as hotel guests or volunteer stewards, instructions. All employees should receive enough information and training about the risks in the premises. Some, such as fire marshals, will need more thorough training.

Step 5 – Review

You should make sure your fire risk assessment is up to date. You will need to re-examine your fire risk assessment if you suspect it is no longer valid, such as after a near miss and every time there is a significant change to the level of risk in your premises. This could include:

• If you store more materials which can catch fire easily

• A new night shift starting

• A change in the type or number of people using your premises

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