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Why it’s important to do a risk assessment for your business

It’s essential that once you have decided on a business idea for your student enterprise that you carry out what’s called a Risk Assessment.

A Risk Assessment will ensure that you do not put yourselves or anyone else at risk as a result of your business activities.

When doing your ‘Risk Assessment’ you must look at the following four areas:

  1. How your product/service is produced
  2. How your product/service is assembled
  3. How your product/service is sold
  4. How your product/service is used

With regard to these four areas above, ask yourselves these three key questions:

  1. What hazards or dangers could arise from your design?
  2. How serious is this risk?
  3. What do you need to do to eliminate or reduce these risks?

It’s important to spend time assessing all the potential risks and discussing how you can eliminate them with your fellow team mates and enterprise teacher. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for opinions of others such as parents, siblings, aunts, uncles etc…. as sometimes someone not so close to the idea can spot things you may not.

A word on manufacturing

If your team is involved in manufacturing, the possibility for damage is greater and even seemingly harmless products can sometimes pose a danger. If your team is involved in manufacturing, you must be particularly diligent with your Risk Assessment.

For example, take natural handmade soap. This seems perfectly straightforward. One of the ingredients is lye, which is tremendously corrosive to skin. So there is a risk both to the students making the product and the users.

Be particularly cautious of products that are ingested or applied to the skin, as quality control is critical here. There are many rules, regulations and laws regarding personal products, so research is key in this area of business production.

Rule of thumb for safety: “When in doubt, Don’t!”

Safe System of Work Plan (SSWP)

Students are encouraged to implement a ‘Safe System of Work Plan (SSWP)’.

Essentially this means:

  • Planning the activity
  • Identifying the hazard
  • Identifying the control
  • Signing-off

Put in place a written system for how risk has been eliminated or reduced during the design process and how you have communicated information on any remaining risks.

If you are designing a product, you must ensure that the product is safe, can be maintained safely and complies with all relevant safety and health legislation.

The following are some examples of safety considerations in common products:

Rain Harvesting and Storage Container:       

Ensure product has secure lock on cover to ensure it cannot be opened by young children.

Food Products:

Ask the Home Economics teacher for oversight on preparation, health and safety and adherence to HSE guidelines

Children’s Toys:

If the item has small Parts mean it must be labelled as unsuitable for children under 3 years old as it could pose a choking hazard. Check out Irish and European standards and regulations on children’s products and safety.

Chargers and Associated Electronic Gadgets:

Ensure any items that are designed by you or bought in Ireland or from abroad with a view to selling on to customers have CE marking and are in line with all safety regulations.

Useful Links

The above information has been adapted from the ‘Production’ chapter in the Student Enterprise Programme Teachers’ Handbook, which was compiled and written by Brian Dolan. The Teachers’ Handbook is available to download here.