If you’re an employer or self-employed, you’re legally required to carry out a risk assessment for your business. It doesn’t have to be complicated or costly: many business owners perform a risk assessment without any external help.

Follow our quick guide to assessing risks to help you create a safer environment for your employees.

1. Identify Hazards

Take a physical tour of your new premises. Look at your workplace through the eyes of a commercial insurance provider, and make a note of anything that could be considered hazardous – staircases without a handrail, doors that open both ways, or areas where employees will be using chemicals. Don’t forget to include the “common-sense” hazards, as well as the less obvious ones.

Get your staff involved – your workers might be aware of hazards that you’ve missed. It might also be helpful to refer to your historical accident records to jog your memory.

And when it comes to any chemicals or equipment, don’t forget to consult the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels – you can then make sure your employees follow the correct procedures for minimising risks.

2. Identify Those at Risk

Break your workforce into categories for each hazard you assess – workers who use ladders, workers handling chemicals, or workers carrying heavy loads.

As well as considering the “average worker”, don’t forget new starters, those still to be trained, and those workers who are pregnant or disabled. Different employees may have different levels of risk, and you may have to implement different measures to control that risk.

And don’t stop at your permanent workers – members of the public, visiting maintenance engineers and cleaners all need to be taken into consideration in your risk assessment.

3. Assess the Risks and Make a Plan

Once you have a list of potential hazards, make an assessment of their risk level – how likely is it that each hazard could cause someone harm?

If you can’t remove the hazard completely, try to take steps to reduce that hazard’s risk – keep the chemical cupboard locked to limit access, provide protective equipment such as goggles and gloves, or switch to a less dangerous cleaning chemical.

The law requires that you do everything “reasonably practicable” to protect others from harm. If you’re unsure, you can find many examples of good practice in the workplace at the goverment’s HSE website.

4. Review Your Risk Assessment and Keep it Updated

Maintaining a safer working environment is a continual process. No one can expect you to make hundreds of changes overnight, so plan a campaign of improvements over a certain period. Start with those changes that can prevent the most potential harm, as well as the ones that are quick or low-cost.

As time goes by, your business is bound to change. New staff, new equipment, new products and new methods may all require a new assessment of the hazards and risk-levels involved. Keep performing new assessments at regular intervals to make sure you’re keeping on top of your employees’ safety.

Keep your commercial insurance up-to-date too, to keep pace with changes to your business.