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It is often thought in work places that risk assessments are a waste of time and that they have no real purpose at work apart from keeping the HSE and employers happy. This is not the case they have a real benefit in reducing accidents in the workplace.

You carry out mini risk assessments all the time in your day to day life, for example when you cross the road, enter an area you are not familiar with, approach a barking dog or walk on a river bank. What you are doing is looking for hazards and in your mind you decide if the risks are low, medium or high. You can then make a decision on whether you approach, protect yourself, ask for help or other actions. To put this in workplace language, you are deciding on the control measures that you need to take.

Risk assessments reduce accidents by formally looking at an area at work, identifying the hazards that are there, then looking at the possible accidents or injury that could take place. By taking this controlled and planned action you can see what could happen and reduce the likelihood accident happening.

Risk assessments also help to reduce illness. This is because they can identify chemicals, workplace processes and look at ways to avoid illnesses such as like lung problems caused by exposure to dust, being exposed to chemicals that cause cancer or other illnesses and to reduce exposure to other harmful substances like radiation or even the effects of the sun, assessing how people sit at their desks can help to reduce eye strain and other injuries.

When you risk assess an area you are also looking at previous accidents and incidents which will be used to make your assessment better which in turn reduces accidents and illness.

A risk assessment will only reduce accidents and illness if the steps you suggest are acted upon and when all staff know what they should do and follow the suggestions. You will need to review to ensure that it is working from time to time.

The list of accidents and illnesses that can be reduced by a good risk assessment is far to long for this course as all workplaces are different. Finally, just because you risk assess one production line or office floor you still have to do a risk assessment on others even if they seem identical as every workplace is slightly different and the people working there are also different.