Risk assessment is an important activity for any organization, as the goal is to identify the risks that threaten the organization, and anyone involved with it, and take steps to eliminate those risks. A risk assessment process also helps to identify when certain risks occur, and why. It creates a safer and more stable environment for people to be in. The risk assessment process is a source of protection for the organization.
Here are the eight important steps of a risk assessment process:
1. Identify hazards
In the risk assessment process, the assessor must first identify the hazards that currently exist, and also those that could appear under certain circumstances. This entire exercise is about controlling risk, so in order for that to be done effectively, the hazards must first be recognized. Hazards can be physical, mental, biological, or chemical, depending on the environment.
It is important to note the difference between a hazard and a risk. The hazard is the event that would cause harm to someone or something, while a risk is the likelihood of that happening.
2. Decide who or what may be affected or harmed
For each hazard that is identified, assessors must also indicate who or what is at risk of being affected. This can include the employees, the clients, and the general public, for example. In addition, certain people may be more vulnerable to certain hazards – for instance, pregnant and breastfeeding women and differently abled people – and it is the responsibility of the employer to identify and mitigate those risks.
3. Evaluate the risks
At this point, the assessor must evaluate the actual risk that each hazard poses, in order to prioritize the most likely over the least likely and the most dangerous over the least dangerous. Some hazards may be identified but may not require any action to reduce the level of risk, either because the risk is already being managed as effectively as possible, or because the likelihood of the hazard causing harm is already very low. It is almost impossible to eliminate risk completely, and it is up to the assessor to decide whether ample measures have been taken.
4. Identify and implement control measures
Once hazards and risk have been identified, control measures must be implemented. These are the things that will be done in order to remove or reduce the risk. This can be done by eliminating the hazard completely, which is frequently not a possibility, or by implementing measures to reduce the risk of someone getting hurt.
Implementing control measures often depends on the cooperation of multiple people within the organization. It means implementing processes, rules, and policies that everyone must follow. One reason why risk will always remain is because there will always be the element of human error.
People don’t always follow rules, and humans tend to have an “it won’t happen to me” attitude, which unfortunately undoes all of the risk mitigation that comes from the implementation of the measure. For particularly dangerous hazards, some companies have strict policies that demand immediate termination of anyone caught not abiding by safety measures.
5. Re-evaluate for remaining risks
This second look gives assessors the opportunity to analyze the remaining hazards and their associated risks and decide whether the control measures will be sufficient, or whether additional measures may be required in order to further lower and eliminate risk.
6. Record findings
A record of the risk assessment process is necessary for a couple of different reasons. First, it acts as proof that the assessment was done. Proof is necessary in the event that the organization is questioned in regards to whether an assessment was done, and whether it was done well. It also is an important source of information for employees or others coming into the organization who need to learn about the risks associated with being there. This record is a working document, and so can adapt and grow as things change over time.
7. Make plans for remaining risks
As some risk remains, it would be naïve for organizations to ignore the possibility of certain hazards still occurring. Plans must be made so that there is consensus and understanding about the methods to follow if and when they do happen. This ensures that even when hazards do occur, they are managed efficiently and quickly. This, in itself, is actually a risk mitigation tactic, as it means that the hazards will likely not cause as much harm as they would if these preparations were not made.
8. Review and repeat
Risk assessment and control is an ongoing process. This document needs to be reviewed consistently, and the risk assessment process needs to be undertaken at regular intervals to ensure that processes are always up to date. Any change in the company can present new hazards, or change the level of risk associated with pre-existing hazards, and it is a crucial step in keeping employees and others safe, and keeping things running smoothly.