The importance of creating a tailored Risk Assessment template

Mark Owen – Health & Safety Expert

October 15 2015

Whilst our Business Safety consultants will give all the advice, help and assistance they can to their clients they won’t complete risk assessments on your behalf. This is because they only see your business at a moment in time, they don’t see what goes on when they aren’t there, for example when equipment goes wrong, when hazardous substances are used or what goes on when your employees are working away from your premises. As well as the day to day hazards and risks a suitable risk assessment will need to consider what goes on when things go wrong, when equipment breaks down and repairs are necessary. The hazards and risks during these activities can only be assessed by those who have to deal with them and can assess the risk. In these situations, even if a consultant isn’t on hand our 24 hour advice service is there to offer support and guidance and lead you through the situation. While it is very tempting to piggy-back on or copy a template risk assessment it is not the right approach to managing health and safety issues. It is far too easy to take and use what is written down without giving much thought to your particular circumstances and working arrangements. Inevitably that will lead to things going wrong. A case recently heard at St Albans Crown Court illustrates both the need for documents to suitable and appropriate and for an active day to day management of health and safety at work issues. An employee of a transport company died from life-changing injuries when he fell from an unsecured ladder whilst making a delivery to a Hertfordshire golf club. He had climbed onto the lorry and onto the load, a generating set, to attach a hook and chain so that it could be craned into place. After he had attached the hook, the ladder slid and he fell two and a half metres to the ground. The fall caused extensive brain damage as well as a broken ribs, collarbone and cheekbone. He was in a coma for 4 months and in hospital for 6 months. Subsequently he was unable to move, swallow or communicate and needed nursing home care. He died two years after the accident having never recovered from his injuries. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the driver’s employer, David Watson Transport Ltd, for failing to properly safeguard workers from falls. The court found that as far as work at height, there were serious deficiencies in planning. While there was a lift loader plan document created by the Company Director responsible for health and safety it was full of defects. In evidence the director told the court that the defects in the written plan were 'cut and paste' errors which should not have been there. Commenting on this evidence Judge Carroll said that the cut and paste plan meant that “there was no effective plan at all and (it) was an exercise in ensuring the papers were in place rather than the product of a genuine planning process.” The judge also noted that there were serious failures in the supervision of employees. He was particularly critical of evidence given by the Director that it was unrealistic for him to put aside his other tasks and duties to carry out the supervision required. He said that this duty was not prioritised and it should have been. The failure to do so was a gross breach of the statutory duty and went right up to the most senior levels of management. Saying that 'the total absence of supervision in this case, in my view significantly contributed to the existence of a dangerous state of affairs and thus directly in the chain of causation to the incident itself and the (driver’s) death'. Judge Carroll fined the company £150,000 and imposed costs of £88,030.69. Business Safe clients who work closely with their consultant and our 24 hour advice service and take care to manage health and safety as routine will have no fears about being found as wanting as this transport company. Remember, that if you need health and safety information or assistance you can call one of our BusinessSafe consultations at any time of day or night on 0844 892 2785 option2.  

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