Business risk management and risk assessment- these terms have been around for some time now and we have all become accustomed to hearing them But what do they really mean and what is it that really matters when deciding what to include?
The first thing that matters is meeting the legislation. There are many different types of risk assessment to deal with specific hazard types, and which are specifically required by law. Examples include: hazardous substances (COSHH Regulations) computer workstations (Health & Safety (Display Screen Assessment) Regulations 1992) and work equipment (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.) This article is not concentrating on these, but instead is looking more closely at the general everyday tasks and processes that people come across at work and how these should be assessed. It is often the routine work activities, or those unplanned and one-off events that actually cause most accidents, simply because they’ve been overlooked or the key issues that matter to the workers have not been considered. We have written about a variety workplace topics so taking a few minutes to read our posts may help you to look at a workplace problem with a fresh pair of eyes.
Our Risk Management Process
Business risk management encompasses an awful lot of health and safety considerations but goes wider – it needs to include issues such as: risk appetite, insurance liability, reputation, product/service risk as well as emergency contingencies. The same assessment approach, regardless of the subject or discipline, will help to enable a consistent and methodical way to identify and manage your various risks. And don’t forget that because this expands into business risk management there will be need to include a wider range of people within your business than simply the health, safety, quality or environmental manager or representative. Depending on the risk(s) you are assessing this may include people from: procurement, corporate governance, IT or even HR.
Whether your assessments are completed by your own staff or you use the services of a specialist (e.g. a consultant), it is essential that you involve the people who are doing and managing the processes you are assessing, using the equipment or working in the area you wish to assess. This is because they are the actual experts although they may not realise it, and neither may you! They are the people who are dealing and responding to a range of working conditions, problems, equipment glitches etc. and adapt accordingly to get the job completed on time – and hopefully safely! This gives them the valuable opportunity to look at these eventualities with a fresh pair of eyes and to share their thoughts, queries and views with the person who is leading the assessment process. Accidents often occur when one employee injures another from something they did wrongly, or should not have done, and is overlooked when completing risk assessments. One of our earlier blogs covers this topic and considers who is liable, and may help you rethink your approach to risk assessment.
PHSC are specialists who guide organisations around the maze of legal requirements, standards and good practice principles and then apply these to the everyday working environment where non-routine things happen, things go wrong, and mistakes happen. We also consider hazards caused by workers who are so familiar with their environment and process that they cannot see the dangers. Our holistic approach to risk assessment and management can help you to integrate wider risk management into the exercise, saving time and money in the longer term.
By taking a step back and observing a working area or practice with the individuals concerned, it can give an improved understanding and this viewpoint can be included as part of a training exercise for other employees. This approach can often result in simple improvements being identified, ones that don’t necessarily require high levels of technical input or heavy costs. And when an idea from the workforce is put into practice, this is when staff morale improves and people are more willing to follow new work procedures as the idea came from the team in the first place.
What Assessments Do You Need?
There are specific requirements for risk assessment in a number of key regulations, including:
- Business Continuity Assessment (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999)
- Emergency Planning Assessment, to include issues such as: fire, flood, arson, major energy failure, explosion, terrorist threat, toxic release into the atmosphere or watercourse (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to name just one)
- Display Screen Equipment (Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992)
- Manual Handling Activities ( Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992)
- Hazardous Work Equipment (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998)
- Vehicle / pedestrian routes and walkways (Workplace (Health & Safety) Regulations 1992)
- Dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres assessment (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002)
This is not an extensive list, but it provides some examples of legislation where risk assessment is a key requirement.
Under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 you are required to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which your employees are exposed, as well as risks from your workplace or activities that could affect visitors, contractors and the general public. These regulations also require you to identify and manage serious or imminent dangers as well have arrangements in place to Plan, Do, Check and then review / act to eliminate or mitigate your risks; this includes using the principle of prevention over protection wherever this is reasonable to achieve.
There are many ways in which you can find out what these are, including inspections, audits etc. but one of the more effective ways is to observe and to talk to your team. This can be done during a group exercise where all areas / processes are listed, and they can then be put into sections (e.g. different types of maintenance, equipment or vehicles.) Then you can consider which assessments you already have completed, e.g. to meet a specific legal requirement, and which ones are left. Finally, you can prioritise these, based on your knowledge and experience and set yourself a programme of formal assessment.
How PHSC Can Help You?
Whether you are looking for the whole process of assessments to be completed by a specialist or wanting your own team to receive some specialist input and support, we can provide practical help at a sensible cost. There is no single way to complete an assessment and we have over 30 years experience, which we can share to help you find the best way to address risk assessments in a way that provides meaningful benefits to your business.
It may be that your internal competence is high, but staff are not too confident in the technical terminology or process of assessment. In this case we can provide a number of training, coaching and mentoring solutions to enable your team to feel confident when they complete their risk assessment.
Common Q &As
Why are risk assessments so important?
Apart from them being a legal requirement, they provide the opportunity to look ahead at what could go wrong, rather than deal with the consequences of failure. They can save you valuable time, money and business reputation.
What is the purpose of a risk assessment?
To identify anything that has the potential to cause harm or damage to people, property and products in your business. It is like looking into a crystal ball in that you are trying to pre-empt what could go wrong and then put processes in place to eliminate the chances of it happening, or the consequences if it does go wrong.
How to do a Risk Assessment?
There are many publications around that vary from too basic and simple to overly technical and complicated. The HSE website provides examples of risk assessment formats and templates that you can use and can be found here for a wide range of business sectors.
These templates don’t qualify or quantify the level of risk and perhaps this is something you should consider adding to help demonstrate to your stakeholders why you’ve calculated a risk as High, Medium or Low. This can be done in a simple matrix which considers the likelihood of injury/damage etc as well as the potential consequences or seriousness if it does happen.
For more information on risk assessments click here, or get in contact with us and we can help you to eliminate the chances of things going wrong in your workplace.