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What is a Risk Assessment

Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires that employers and those who control workplaces to any extent must identify the hazards in the workplaces under their control and assess the risks to safety and health at work presented by these hazards.

Employers must examine and write down these workplace risks and what to do about them. Ultimately, assessing risk means that anything in the workplace that could cause harm to your employees, other employees and other people (including customers, visitors and members of the public) must be carefully examined. This allows you to estimate the magnitude of risk and decide whether the risk is acceptable or whether more precautions need to be taken to prevent harm.

Employers are required to implement any improvements considered necessary by the risk assessment. The aim is to ensure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill.

However, it is important to remember that, in identifying hazards and assessing risks, employers should only consider those which are generated by work activities. There is no need to consider every minor hazard or risk that we accept as part of our lives.

The results of any risk assessments should be written into the safety statement.

What is A Safety Statement

Section 20 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires that an organisation produce a written programme to safeguard:

•the safety and health of  employees while they work
•the safety and health of  other people who might be at the workplace, including customers, visitors and members of the public
The safety statement represents a commitment to their safety and health. It should state how the employer will ensure their safety and health and state the resources necessary to maintain and review safety and health laws and standards. The safety statement should influence all work activities, including

•the selection of competent people, equipment and materials
•the way work is done
•how goods and services are designed and provided
It is essential to write down the safety statement and put in place the arrangements needed to implement and monitor it. The safety statement must be made available to staff, and anyone else, showing that hazards have been identified and the risks assessed and eliminated or controlled.

What are the main functions of the safety representative?

A safety representative may consult with, and make representations to, the employer on safety, health and welfare matters relating to the employees in the place of work. The employer must consider these representations, and act on them if necessary. The intention of these consultations is to prevent accidents and ill health, to highlight problems, and identify means of over-coming them. Consultations would be particularly important when changes are taking place, for example when drawing up a safety plan, or introducing new technology or work processes, including new substances. They also have a part to play in long established work practices and hazards.

The functions of the safety representative also include:

•accompanying an inspector carrying out an inspection under Section 64 of the 2005 Act other than the investigation of an accident or a dangerous occurrence (although this may be allowed at the discretion of the inspector)
•at the discretion of the inspector, and where the employee concerned so requests, be present when an employee is being interviewed by an inspector about an accident or dangerous occurrence at a place of work
•make representations to the employer on safety, health and welfare at the place of work
•make verbal or written representations to inspectors including on the investigation of accidents or dangerous occurrences
•receive advice and information from inspectors in relation to safety, health and welfare at the place of work
•consult and liaise with other safety representatives appointed in the same undertaking, whether or not those safety representatives work in the same place of work, in different places of work under the control of the employer or at different times at the place of work (for example, safety representatives on different shifts).
Does the safety representative carry out workplace inspections?
A safety representative, after giving reasonable notice to the employer, has the right to inspect the whole or part of a workplace he or she represents, at a frequency or on a schedule agreed between him/her and the employer, based on the nature and extent of the hazards in the place of work. A safety representative also has the right to immediately inspect where an accident, dangerous occurrence or imminent danger or risk to the safety, health and welfare of any person has occurred.

Factors that should be considered when deciding the frequency of inspections include:

•size of workplace
•nature and range of work activities and work locations
•nature and range of hazards and risks
•changing hazards and risks