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Risks and Hazards

All hazards need to be considered in risk assessments.  A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm.  A risk is the likelihood that someone could be harmed by a hazard, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.  The law doesn't require you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as is 'reasonably practicable'.

Identify hazards in your workplace

The first stage of a risk assessment is to look for hazards.  A hazard can be something easily seen, such as a trailing cable, a worn carpet or exposed wiring.  Or it can be something less obvious - a slippery surface, for example.


It can be something general, such as poor lighting.  Or it can be something specific to your business, such as the particular hazardous substances you use.  A hazard can be something directly affecting your employees, such as exposure to bacteria - or something affecting the environment in general, such as your waste materials.


You should distinguish between:



When looking for hazards it can be helpful to:


Checklist: watching out for workplace hazards

For each hazard you need to be clear about who may be harmed.  This will help you identify the best way to manage the risk.  You should also consider those hazards which affect contractors, visitors, customers and others who may not be on site all of the time. In each case, identify how they may be harmed - what type of injury or ill health might occur.


Some workplace hazards can be easily spotted. However, many can be easily overlooked. Make sure you:


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