How Risk Assessments Control Risks At The Workplace

Controlling workplace risks is a huge part of keeping your workers safe and healthy. To achieve this type of control, you need to step back and take note of anything that might cause harm to your employees or on-site guests. From there, reasonable steps must be taken to prevent or minimize that harm.

This process is known as a risk assessment. It’s a pivotal step in establishing sensible measures to better control workplace risks. Even if you feel you’re already proactive when it comes to protecting your employees, a risk assessment can give you some much needed peace of mind that nothing is being overlooked.

Risk assessments allow you an opportunity to really think about anything that could happen to harm, injure, or jeopardize the lives of your employees. This gives you a chance to concentrate on real risks – the things that are most likely or could cause the most harm.

Some risks may require more specific control measures. A risk assessment helps you identify where more detailed control measures need to be implemented. These control measures can actually be an extension of your overall risk assessment.

There are five key steps to a successful risk assessment.

#1 – Identify Workplace or Jobsite Hazards

A successful risk assessment comes down to accurately identifying any potential workplace or jobsite hazards.

Walking around the site to note any potential dangers is a good starting point. Watch your employees in action. Observe how they’re using certain machines and tools or handling certain substances. Look for things that could potentially injure them or harm their health.

Now, anyone that has worked at one place long enough knows how easy it is to look past certain things in the monotony of your day-to-day. So, it’s important to do other things beyond a physical walk through.

Such things may include checking a manufacturer’s instructions or equipment manuals, reviewing previously documented accidents or workplace illness records, assessing non-routine operations like maintenance, cleaning, or production cycle changes, or looking more closely at potential long-term health hazards like exposure to harmful substances or high levels of noise.

While not all may be relevant to your business, certain hazards have a widely assumed risk of harm – whether it’s working with chemicals, working at heights, working around asbestos, or the use of high-risk machinery. By all means, take a close look at these.

#2 – Identify Who Might Be Harmed

Think of who could be the most harmed by these identified hazards. Whether it’s employees, contractors, their subcontractors, or visitors. Talk to your employees. Ask them what they think the hazards every day are. They may even have some good ideas when it comes to controlling risks.

You should be clear on who is the most at risk for every hazard identified. This is key to controlling that risk. Break them down into groups rather than individual names.

You also need to keep in mind that none of your employees are alike. New or younger employees are more susceptible to accidents or incidents. You could also have employees who don’t speak English, are pregnant, or have disabilities. People on-site who just aren’t there all the time like contractors, clients, customers, or other on-site guests. Be sure EVERYONE is factored in and don’t hesitate to ask workers if anyone or anything may be missing.

#3 – Evaluate Workplace/Jobsite Risks

Once you’ve identified the hazards and who is at harm, it’s time to determine the level of risk and put an action plan into place to deal with it. Risks are a part of everyday life and are unfortunately unavoidable. They cannot altogether be eliminated. Your only hope is to responsibly manage them in a way that minimizes their occurrence and impact.

Some hazards you might be able to completely eliminate. If you can’t, you need to at least establish how to control them. Are there less risky options available? Is there protective equipment available? Can access or exposure to the hazard be reduced?

Sometimes the most low-cost precautions can do the trick. The placement of a mirror at a blind corner wouldn’t cost you very much. Remember, nine times out of ten, an accident will cost you more than taking some simple precautions to prevent it.

Include your workers in this evaluation. A culture of safety can only be achieved if every employee understands their individual role in achieving it.

#4 Document Everything

Significant findings need to be documents. The identified hazards, how many are in harm’s way, how many have been harmed, and the steps taken to control the risks. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Make note of the main points and what you concluded.

Risk assessments must show that a proper check was made, you’ve addressed any obvious hazards, you’ve taken reasonable precautions to minimize the risks tied to these hazards, and you’ve involved your employees in the process.

#5 – Regularly Review Your Risk Assessment

From new equipment to new employees to new substances or procedures, no workplace ever stays the same and new risks and hazards will emerge. Risk assessments should be kept up-to-date to note any significant changes, improvements that still need to be made, and review all accidents and near misses to note patterns.


If you’re in the New England area, MAC Safety Consultants – located in Cambridge, MA – will perform a comprehensive risk assessment for you. We’ve performed many risk assessments in Boston and its metropolitan area within a variety of sectors/industries. You can learn more about our MA risk assessments at or call us today at 617-997-8399.

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