[5 Steps] How to Carry Out an Office Risk Assessment

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According to the Labour Force Survey 2022-23, around 561,000 British employees sustained non-fatal injuries in the workplace.

Every employer is fundamentally and legally responsible for performing an office risk assessment to ensure their workers’ safety, health, and protection in the office environment. Neglecting these assessments can have serious consequences, exposing workers to various health and safety risks such as musculoskeletal disorders, slips, trips and falls, manual handling hazards, etc.

Apart from raising safety threats for employees, these preventable risks and hazards can harm employers’ bottom lines in various ways. On that note, this blog explores a five-step process for performing risk assessments in office settings like a professional.

TL;DR – How to Carry Out an Office Risk Assessment

In this blog, we’ve covered the five fundamental steps to perform an in-depth office risk assessment.

Here’s a brief overview:

  • Step 1: Risk Identification
  • Step 2: Risk Evaluation 
  • Step 3: Control Measures Implementation
  • Step 4: Documentation of Assessment
  • Step 5: Monitoring and Updates

Ready to be in charge of your workplace safety? Explore TSW Training’s IOSH Managing Safely course to learn how to identify, control, and mitigate workplace risks and comply with worker health and safety laws.

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What Is an Office Risk Assessment?

A recent survey showed that 68% of employees feel unsafe working in office buildings. Moreover, 23% of remote employees agreed to prefer changing jobs over returning to a work site where their safety is compromised.

Employers can control this issue by committing to building a safe and healthy work environment. This requires an office risk assessment, a step-by-step guide to identify potential workplace hazards and measure their likelihood and severity of harm. 

By pinpointing all potential risks, employers can take significant measures to decrease the chances of workplace injuries.

Who Should Complete Risk Assessments in the Workplace?

The organisation’s legal responsibility is to perform a comprehensive risk assessment at the office or hire a professional expert with relevant knowledge, skills, and experience.

According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must take the necessary steps “for effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.”

That’s why even if the task is delegated, the employer must be actively involved, communicate with the appointed party and stay up-to-date with details.

Workplace Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Examples

Here are three examples of how organisations identified and assessed the risks in their workplaces, as presented by the Health and Safety Executive UK:

1. Office-based Business

Smith’s Consultants proactively controlled workplace risks in their office by doing a full office walk-through, referring to HSE disability rules, and directly engaging with employees and cleaning contractors to gain different perspectives.

They also investigated previous accidents to determine whether there were any recurring issues. Based on their findings, they created an action plan describing critical risk controls and presented it openly to all employees.

2. Factory Maintenance Work

The manager heading the risk assessment for the factory’s maintenance work deeply inspected all work locations. They interviewed the safety representative, supervisors, and workers to gain useful information and studied previous accident reports.

They also worked with key stakeholders to identify current control measures, lay out the necessary steps, implement them, and communicate the results to ensure that any major changes were continuously reviewed.

3. Warehouse

The warehouse manager performed a risk assessment by physically checking the warehouse, meeting with the union safety representative and supervisors, and reviewing previous accident reports.

They identified potential hazards, assessed existing controls, and picked out new safety measures to be applied. The findings were communicated with staff and a union representative. The manager agreed to revisit the monthly assessment to guarantee its continued success.

Engineers in hard hats conducting a safety evaluation.

Common Safety Risks in the Office

Here are the five most common office safety risks that UK employers should focus on:

Slips and Trips

HSE confirms that 95% of slips, trips, and falls at work lead to severe injuries like broken bones and even two fatalities per year. These preventable accidents cost UK employers £512 million annually in lost productivity and other associated expenses.

Here are some common reasons for office slips and trips:

  • Spills and spills on the floor, especially from beverages or cleaning supplies.
  • Boxes, filing cabinets, and personal belongings that restrict paths and halls.
  • Uneven surfaces, including broken floor tiles, loose carpets, or poorly fitted cabling.
  • Irregular or damaged staircases, poor lighting, etc.

Manual Handling of Paper, Office Equipment, etc.

Manual handling actions in the office include lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing, and pulling certain items. Even though they appear harmless, poor manual handling practices can cause repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), neck strains, and other musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs).

In 2022-23, British employers had lost 7.3 million working days, as over 477,000 workers had sustained work-induced MSDs.

That said, here are some situations that trigger manual handling risks in offices:

  • Lifting heavy boxes of paper or files
  • Carrying big office equipment (printers, water coolers)
  • Trying to reach for items kept on high shelves

Man with a beard experiencing a fall with a ladder behind him in a black and white setting.

Display Screen Equipment

Computers, laptops, and other display screen equipment (DSE) are mandatory in today’s offices.

However, long-term DSE use without proper ergonomics can trigger MSDs like upper limb issues, neck discomfort, back pain, and eye strain. According to reports, over 340,000 people in the United Kingdom have poor eyesight issues.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, companies must perform DSE assessments for workers who work on screens for long hours to minimise the associated risks.

These assessments should look at workstation configuration, such as:

  • Monitor arrangement
  • Keyboard height
  • Chair adjustability, etc.

Besides, encouraging workers to perform stretches and exercises and giving them regular breaks from DSE work can also lower the risk of MSDs.

Work-Induced Stress

Modern office work is demanding and fast-paced, which can significantly raise stress levels in workers. Anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and heart disease are some of the many health issues that can arise from unmanaged work-related stress.

Reports claim 56% of employees reported work-induced depression symptoms in 2023, with women 20% more likely to be affected. Only 10% of employees seek help, which is heavily concerning.

Employers should combat this risk by establishing a supportive workplace culture with open communication, manageable workloads, and well-defined expectations. Flexible working arrangements, employee wellness assistance programs, and healthy work-life boundaries can also improve employee well-being and reduce stress.

Asbestos

Although the UK has prohibited asbestos use in construction since 1999, employees working in older buildings can still be at risk. Inhaling asbestos fibres can lead to major health issues, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer.

As per HSE, asbestos-related illnesses cause over 5,000 work-related casualties each year. Identifying and controlling this risk early is necessary because some of the illnesses mentioned above can take decades to develop.

Generally, an office building containing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) is not always risky. However, if ACMs are disturbed during maintenance or renovation, they can release hazardous fibres into the atmosphere. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 mandates employers control the risk of asbestos exposure.

Hazmat team with protective suits and goggles in a restricted area.

HSE Office Risk Assessment Checklist

Here’s an office risk assessment checklist you can use to keep track while looking for any underlying risks in your workplace:

Serial 

RISK IDENTIFICATION

Yes/No

 

GENERAL SAFETY RISKS

 

1.1

Trip hazards (uneven flooring, loose cables, etc.)

 

1.2

Risk of slips (wet/greased/waxed/polished surfaces)

 

1.3

Manual handling (lifting heavy items)

 

1.4

Workstation ergonomics layout

 
 

ELECTRICAL SAFETY RISKS

 

2.1

Damaged electrical cords/appliances

 

2.2

Overloaded electrical outlets

 

2.3

Need for Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)

 
 

DISPLAY SCREEN EQUIPMENT USE RISKS

 

3.1

Proper posture and equipment arrangement

 

3.2

Prolonged use of DSE

 
 

ASBESTOS EXPOSURE RISKS

 

4.1

Presence of any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) 

 

4.2

Condition of ACM present in the building

 

4.3

Risk of distribution

 

Now, let’s learn what steps to follow while covering the assessment.

How to Carry Out Office Risk Assessment

Are you ready to start your office risk assessment?

Follow our five-step process to identify, assess, and control safety hazards to keep your workplace risk-free:

Step 1: Risk Identification

In this stage, you will carefully inspect your workplace to identify possible hazards that could harm or sicken employees.

Look around the entire office property, including workstations, communal rooms, kitchens, and storage facilities. Some common risks found in most cases are slips, trips, falls, repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), etc.

Step 2: Risk Evaluation

Once you’ve pinpointed the risks in your workplace, it’s time to calculate their likelihood of incidence and potential consequences.

Here’s what you should measure:

  • Frequency and duration of employee exposure to the risk
  • Number of employees potentially at risk
  • Chances of significant injury or illness.

After identifying the risks, the next step is to figure out how to decrease or eliminate them.

Step 3: Control Measures Implementation

Although elimination is always the best course of action, it’s not always possible in every situation.

Instead, set control measures that decrease the likelihood or impact of workplace accidents, such as installing safety guards on machines, installing ergonomic furniture, and teaching proper lifting techniques.

Step 4: Documentation of Assessment

Document your risk assessment findings religiously. They are proof of the hazards identified, risks assessed, and safety measures applied.

This documentation shows your dedication to workplace safety and is an invaluable resource for assessing how well the control measures are performing in upcoming reviews. In case of any workplace incident, clear documentation also proves that you took proper measures to ensure workplace safety.

Step 5: Monitoring and Updates

As we all know, the modern workplace is continuously evolving. That’s why your risk assessment should not be done just once.

Review and update your assessment periodically, especially if the work environment, equipment, or working methods change. By doing this, you can be confident that the implemented risk management strategy will always keep your workers safe.

Investing in risk management training provides your employees with the knowledge and skills needed to recognise dangers, assess risks, and perform safely.

TSW Training offers comprehensive IOSH-approved workplace safety courses that educate workers on how to perform risk assessments. Enrol today to get started.

Two business people with a tablet and documents at a cafe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We’ve answered some of your most frequently asked questions about an office risk assessment:

What are Risk Assessment Tools?

Risk assessment tools are resources that help employers identify hazards and gauge associated risks in the workplace.

These tools come in different formats, including:

  • Checklists: Pre-made lists that identify typical hazards at work
  • Software Applications: Packed with features like risk rating matrices, hazard identification prompts, and reporting features for risk assessments.
  • Blank Templates: Freely available and suitable for conducting a risk assessment; can be customised as required.

How Can I Document the Results of a Risk Assessment?

You can customise the paperwork format for your risk assessment to fit your needs.

However, it should include the following details:

  • Assessment date
  • Name of appointed assessor(s)
  • Description of the assessed work environment
  • Identified hazards
  • Review of risks (probability and impact)
  • Existing safety measures.
  • Implementation of new or revised control measures
  • Name of the designated individual
  • Risk assessment review date

What Steps Should Be Taken After Identifying Risks in an Office?

Creating a well-defined action plan to reduce risks in your office when hazards have been identified is essential.

Usually, this involves three major steps:

  • Implementing control measures: These should be set to eliminate or minimise the likelihood of a workplace accident and avoid its repercussions.
  • Documenting the process: It’s necessary to record all the findings and strategies to be used for future review purposes.
  • Review and monitor: This ensures your control measures are still sufficient and shows what adjustments should be made if work practises/environment change.

Conclusion

Follow these steps and carry out regular office risk assessments to drastically reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents and injuries.

Remember, timely risk assessments lay the foundation for a successful health and safety culture. They show that you care about your employees’ welfare and proactively contribute to making the workplace safer for everyone.

Want to go a step further? TSW Training’s IOSH-approved Managing Safely course can help you create a safety-conscious culture and proactive risk management in your workplace. Sign up today.

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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