A risk assessment is a careful examination of what could cause harm to people in the workplace. Doing a risk assessment will help employers identify the significant risks in their workplace, and avoid wasted effort by effectively targeting these. A good risk assessment will help avoid accidents and ill health, which can not only ruin lives, but can also increase costs to business through lost output, compensation claims and higher insurance premiums.
Risk assessment involves:
- looking for the hazards;
- deciding who might be harmed and how;
- evaluating the risks and deciding whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done;
- recording your findings and telling your employees about them; and
- reviewing your assessment and revising it if necessary, for example:
- if the work changes significantly;
- if there is an accident; or
- when someone returns to work after sickness or injury, or suffers a change in their health, that could affect or be affected by their work.
General advice on how to carry out a risk assessment is contained in 'Controlling the risks in the workplace'. Involving employees and safety representatives in the risk assessment process is a highly effective way of identifying hazards and developing solutions that work.
Legal requirement to undertake risk assessments
Employers have a legal obligation to protect their health and safety and that of their workforce. Regulation 3, of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, requires, among other things, that all employers assess the risks to the health and safety of their employees while they are at work.
Risk assessment specific to MSDs
As well as the requirements for a general risk assessment, there is a requirement in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 to carry out a risk assessment on manual handling tasks. The main areas to focus on are the task, load, working environment and individual capability.
The appendix to L23 Manual Handling, HSE’s guidance on the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, contains advice on choosing the right level of detail for your manual handling risk assessment.
HSE has produced the Manual Handling Assessment Charts (MAC), which can be used to help identify high-risk tasks. The MAC may not comprise a full risk assessment, as some aspects, such as individual factors, are not covered.
You can get further help in assessing tasks that include pushing and pulling from the Risk assessment of pushing and pulling (RAPP) tool.
Online checklists are available to help you do a full risk assessment (if required) on workplace lifting and carrying and on pushing and pulling activities. They are not interactive but can be downloaded and printed freely.
Upper limb disorders
In relation to upper limb disorders, the filter and risk assessment worksheets featured in the guidance booklet Upper limb disorders in the workplace can be used as an aid to risk assessment. They are intended to help employers identify the potential risks and possible ways to reduce them.
HSE have produced the Assessment of Repetitive Tasks tool (ART), which can be used to help identify high-risk tasks. The ART does not comprise a full risk assessment, as some aspects, such as individual factors, are not covered.
The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 require employers to undertake an analysis of the workstation to assess and reduce risks. To help employers to comply with the minimum requirements we have produced a workstation checklist as an aid to risk assessment. There is more information on DSE.
A risk assessment should cover all standard operations, including cleaning and maintenance activities. It should reflect how the work is actually done.
Here are just some of the other tools that are available to be used to assess various occupational tasks or jobs. Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list and that there maybe other, more applicable, approaches that assess the task or job more accurately.
- NIOSH Lifting Equation
This is used to assess manual handling operations. This link will take you to the NIOSH website, where the tool and other related information can be found.
- RULA (Rapid Upper Limb Assessment)
This is an assessment for ergonomic investigations of workplaces where work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) have been reported.
- NHS Choices is the online 'front door' to the NHS. It is the UK's biggest health website and gives all the information you need to make choices about your health.
- Safe lifting tips
Learning and following the correct method for lifting and handling heavy loads can help to prevent injury. Check out the safe lifting and handling tips.
- Body map questionnaire
Body mapping is a technique that employers and safety representatives can use to gather evidence about the effects of work on the human body. You can use it identify clusters of problems that you may need to investigate further, and to encourage workers to think about solutions to the problems they report. HSE's scientists have used this body map questionnaire to survey the prevalence of musculoskeletal 'trouble' in a variety of sectors. It is based on the Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire (NMQ).
- Managing upper limb disorders in the workplace
- Manual handling assessment charts
- Risk assessment of pushing and pulling (RAPP) tool
- Making the best use of lifting and handling aids
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 - Guidance on Regulations
- Working with DSE equipment