One of the following is a risk, and one is a hazard...
A) The high likelihood of me falling out of an open window while celebrating iHASCO's IIP Silver Award, and breaking my legs.
B) A cable running across the floor in the office, in a busy area.
A hazard is something that can cause harm (B) while the risk is a likelihood that a hazard will cause harm (A).
Risk Assessments are the staple of Health and Safety, legally required, and must be documented in organisations with more than 5 staff.
Risk Assessments are really easy to complete and can make the difference between a serious fine and a pat on the back. They also very often make the difference between a safe working environment and serious harm to staff.
In a Risk Assessment, you use a simple formula to work out how severe a risk is, before deciding what to do about it. The formula is simply (likelihood of harm occurring) x (severity of harm).
Each of these two variables usually has a maximum score of 5.
Here is an example of what this may look like in a risk assessment:
Hazard: A fire in the office
The likelihood of this occurring? Lots of stuff is flammable, but it's not likely (2/5).
The severity of harm the hazard can cause? This is severe, could result in deaths or the business closing (5/5).
The Risk Rating of a Fire Occurring in the office is then 2x5 = 10. That’s out of a maximum risk score of 25.
When you’ve done this, you simply need to decide whether you can do anything reasonable to reduce the risk. With this example, it would be reasonable to offer staff Fire Awareness training.
The final step is to record this, by writing it down, and then pick a date to review the risk.
Now, if a fire occurs on-premises, and the Health and Safety Executive were to get involved, they will see you’ve done what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to reduce the risk.
Psssst - We also offer an awesome online Risk Assessment tool that is completely free!