A New Approach To Risk Assessment

Peninsula Team

May 21 2010

At Peninsula the service we offer to our clients is subject to continuous review and improvement. Following that process we have recently revised our approach and guidance to risk assessment. We have moved from a system of quantitative risk assessment to a qualitative system aimed at the reasonably practicable control of risk.

Risk assessment is an important step in protecting your workers and your business, as well as complying with the law. It helps employers focus on the risks in the workplace that really matter; the ones with the potential to cause harm.

Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and will affect your business if, for example, output is lost, if machinery becomes damaged, if insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace and you must put plans in place to control risks.

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of the business processes and tasks that could cause harm to people, during which you consider whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonably practicable control measures.

Government and Health and Safety Executive policy is such that the process does not have to be, and should not be, overcomplicated. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. At Peninsula Business Services we support this stance and have simplified our approach to risk assessment.

We previously recommended a widely used quantitative risk assessment methodology which attributed numeric values to levels of hazard, risk and multipliers reflecting the potential outcome in the event of a mishap. The final value from this calculation could be used to identify significant risks and the most significant issues.

Unfortunately many employers using this methodology have simply used the numeric values from risk assessment as a prioritised action plan. They have started by taking action on the first item on the list (often the most expensive to put right) and then once that was completed began to take action on the second item and so on working down the list. As a result action on some of the lower scoring items, which could have been quickly fixed at low cost, was not started until long after it had been identified. And when an accident occurred, before action was taken, the enforcing authorities used the employer’s own risk assessment of shortcomings as evidence in legal action against the business.

The key output from risk assessment should be the identification of activities that require improved control and the allocation of action, within a suitable time span, to provide suitable control measures. The enforcing authorities will recognise that some control measures require long term planning, may incur significant costs and may require a staged implementation. Provided suitable interim controls have been introduced they will accept that your long term action plan is a reasonably practicable response to the situation. What they won’t accept is the simple identification of an issue; they expect someone to be allocated responsibility for action and for the action to be timely.

Our new recommendation for risk assessment, using our RA2 form, is based on the HSE’s preferred Five Steps system.

1. Identify the hazards.
2. Decide who might be harmed and how.
3. Evaluate the risks and decide on the precautions required.
4. Record your findings. Where the need for additional precautions is identified allocate responsibility for action and implement the action.
5. Periodically review assessments and, if necessary, update them.

Our new system includes a Control Measures Action Record on which managers can record actions allocated to individuals. It can also be used as a simple progress control sheet, without reference to the individual risk assessments.

Our Health and Safety Consultants will explain the detail of these changes to existing clients at their scheduled visits and advise whether to continue with the existing system or whether to adopt and changeover to the new system.

Our 24 Hour Advice Service is on hand to help with any concerns about the risk assessment process or this recently introduced change. Call the Advice Service now on 0844 892 2785 and one of our specialists will be on hand to help.

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