Understanding Risk Assessments

Peninsula Team

June 17 2009

Our Health & Safety services are on hand to help you better understand and manage your obligations and provide you with the knowledge and the systems to allow you to be one step ahead. To speak to one of our Advice Service Consultants call 0844 892 2785.

Of all the jargon used when talking about health & safety, risk assessment is clearly the most misunderstood. Recent TV coverage and campaigns in the media have portrayed the requirements of the Health & Safety Executive as exacting extreme and virtually impossible to achieve, with everything needing to be risk assessed and subject to draconian control. This concept is completely wrong. A risk assessment is merely a logical way of reducing the risk to people by assessing the dangers and implementing control measures.

Risk assessment does not necessarily mean complicated scientific research and does not have to create mountains of paperwork. In the case of hazardous substances or fire, a working knowledge of what the dangers are from such materials is obviously necessary, but the process of risk assessment and reducing risk’ does not have to be complex. The prevention of manual handling injuries, the most common cause of injury in the workplace, incorporates simple ergonomic principles which are easily understood by workers.

A risk assessment only needs to be suitable and sufficient’, it should be simple, only deal with what could go wrong and the actions required to protect those who may be affected by the activity or task involved. Enforcement Agencies want the process to be straightforward and provide a simple 5 step guide to how it is achieved.

The process starts with a compilation of a list of work tasks and a decision regarding each one of them in relation to the related hazards. Anything that has the potential to cause harm would be classed as a hazard’. If the business employs 5 people or more the process should be recorded. In consideration of each task, decide who would be affected and how, then what actions are already in place to protect those affected. Where necessary, implement further action to reduce the risk. Record what you have done and when you made the changes and inform those affected about the dangers that they are still exposed to and the correct method for doing the task. That’s it, a simple, logical analysis to ensure that the task can be carried out safely, provided that the people involved follow the safe working procedures laid down.

At least once per year, check the assessments to see what may have changed and implement further actions if necessary. Remember, only actions that are reasonably practicable’ are necessary, meaning those which are reasonable to expect and are within reasonable cost.

The key points to successful risk assessment are;

  • Look at all work tasks and risk assess those with a significant amount of risk
  • Make sure that all workers have been properly trained and that this training has been recorded
  • Do not let anybody take part in a task that they have not been trained for
  • Ensure that the task is only carried out with control measures in place
  • Prepare a logical method for the task (sometimes called a method statement’) - in most cases this should be documented as a training aid
  • Ensure that workers are supervised, when necessary
  • Monitor the work tasks and implement changes to the assessment when required
  • Review the assessment periodically.

Remember, our Health & Safety services are on hand to help you realise your health & safety obligations as an employer. To speak to one of our Advice Service Consultants call 0844 892 2785.

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