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Risk assessments: Establish your purpose

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Not all risks hold equal weight. For example, focusing efforts on reducing the frequency of safety-related incidents doesn’t necessarily lead to a reduction in the severity of incidents.

To effectively protect workers, safety activities need to go beyond compliance. Risk assessment is a process designed to evaluate a work task’s injury and illness potential. It helps safety professionals make decisions about what new controls to implement and where money and other resources should be spent.

If a particular type of incident continues to occur at your workplace, your incident rates have plateaued, or you’re concerned about the next serious injury or fatality, a formalized risk assessment process may be your best move.

Seven steps lay the groundwork for a successful risk assessment process: purpose and scope, communication, employee engagement, task identification, define uses/applications, method(s) for updates, and measurement.

Let’s focus on the first step: Establishing the purpose and scope. Establishing the purpose sets the direction, tone and expectations. It helps clearly communicate why risk assessments are being conducted and what the organization hopes to get out of the exercise.

The scope helps identify the personnel and areas/departments that will be involved in the risk assessment process. Roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are laid out, and the degree, extent and rigor of the assessment process are defined. The assessment methodology and risk criteria that will be used are provided. Identifying available resources and providing information on internal capabilities in terms of knowledge and means is helpful, too.

Creating a vision statement for your risk assessment process can make sure your efforts stay on track and aid communication efforts as you tackle the next six steps in the process. Good luck on your journey.

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