It’s important for all workers to know the difference between risk prevention and risk management when it comes to employee safety. There are safety hazards in any workplace: Some can be prevented and some can only be managed.

For instance, non-slip floor mats can eliminate the risk of a fall in a slippery area. On the other hand, the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome from typing all day cannot be completely eliminated and therefore can be managed by using proper ergonomics.

Both risk prevention and risk management start with a safety assessment.

Performing a safety risk assessment

When done properly, a risk assessment protects both employees and the business, as well as complies with the law. A risk assessment should be conducted by someone trained in hazard identification and risk evaluation. These assessments are not the same as safety checks and should be carried out on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the nature of the business.

The first part of a typical risk assessment involves identifying hazards with the potential to cause harm to people and property. Next, it should be determined who or what is at risk. A person or persons conducting the assessment should determine what risks can be prevented and what risks can only be managed.

Every step of a safety risk assessment needs to be documented and reviewed.

Preventing risks

Each workplace is different, but many have the same risks that can be prevented if the proper safety measures are put into place.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses, hard hats and work boots can prevent impact injuries common to many production facilities. Ear plugs or ear muffs can prevent gearing loss in work areas with loud noises. In addition to supplying this safety equipment, employers also need to educate and train their employees on how to use it properly.

Routine inspections and maintenance on both equipment and work vehicles is another simple but effective way to prevent risk. Any safety issues revealed by inspections should be addressed immediately.

Good housekeeping is another way employers can prevent safety risks. Making sure floors are clean, dry and free of obstacles prevents the most common workplace injuries – slips, trips and falls.

Managing risks

Some safety risks are simply a fact of doing business. They cannot be prevented, so they must be managed.

You can make sure you do your part, by maintaining your workspace, reporting violations to your manager so that it can be taken care of, and taking responsibility not only for your safety but for the safety of those around you.

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