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Risk assessment for business

With nearly 30 years of experience in just about every industry sector there is, we have probably seen and done it before and can share our learning to make your working life easier.

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We’ve seen how risk assessment has been introduced into just about every business sector there is, and how organisations have struggled to understand it and overcome their challenges. Whether your business is very small or multi-national, we have learned what works well and how risk assessments can fit seamlessly into your wider business practices. You’ve come to the right place if you are looking for Practical Help, at Sensible Cost.

What is Risk Assessment?

Risk assessment is a method which is used to ascertain whether your procedures and systems for protecting your staff from harm are sufficient or if there is more you should be doing.

It is a way to ensure you are being proactive with your health and safety management and compliance rather than addressing problems after they have caused harm. It requires you to look ahead at what could go wrong, before it actually has and then to decide if the measures you are already taking are adequate or if there is more that you could or should reasonably do to make the task, process or area you are assessing safer.

Why are risk assessments important?

 

This is something we are often asked by our clients. The obvious answer is that they are important because failing to do them leaves you vulnerable to criminal liability as they are an absolute legal requirement (ie an employer is not allowed to make a cost/risk analysis before deciding whether to do them or not). However, there are other reasons why they are so important, and the main one is that the processs of risk assessment enables you to look ahead at what could go wrong before it actually has, and then to take measure to stop it from going wrong, or at least reducing the chances of failure, or the impact of any thing that does go wrong. They can also be important when demonstrating to your teams that you value their health, wellbeing and safety as you are taking proactive measures to reduce injury.

For those of you who are developing your safety culture, involving your teams in the assessment process produces significant gains in understanding and ownership of the problems, and hence the solutions.

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Who can complete a risk assessment?

 

Different people or teams may be needed to complete different types of assessment. For example, if you are assessing a complex engineering process you will need involvement of someone who has the technical knowledge to know the inherent and more hidden dangers. If you are assessing something less complex such as an office environment then the assessor(s) will not need to be so specialist, but they still need to understand what can cause harm and how it can be eliminated or reduced.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are clear in their guidance on this issue when they say that a risk assessment is not valid unless it has had the input of the people involved in the work. This is because they are the experts in the everyday things that happen and can go wrong, or almost do. Involving the end user(s) is also an easy way to address near-miss situations that occur and ongoing problems that colleagues tend not to report for varying reasons.
The law only requires that the assessor is competent. Competence includes having a combination of skills such as:

  • Previous experience of the task/area or people being assessed.
  • Technical knowledge/skills of the topic, process, equipment or area.
  • Qualification (either in health and safety, or for the topic being assessed).
  • Knowing your own limitations!

Knowing your own limitations, is probably one of the most important factors to consider!

If you are not sure you know enough about the dangers (obvious and less obvious) then you should not attempt the assessment without consulting with someone who does or undertaking some research first of what it is you are assessing.

How can PHSC help?

Completing the assessments for you and then showing you how to keep them updated and effective

Training your staff / teams in how to complete their own risk assessments

Coaching and mentoring key individuals to develop their own risk assessment skills and strategy

Integrating Risk Assessment – Case Study

Our client in the social housing sector was struggling with finding a simple method by which health and safety risk assessments for colleagues and customers could be integrated with planning of remedial repair work at customers’ homes. Separate risk assessments were often completed as an after-thought, completed as a cursory “add-on” exercise or not completed at all.

We worked with the planning team to ascertain how works were planned/organised and the documents they used to process the works. We then integrated a simple risk assessment process into the documents they were already using, to save them extra work in using additional forms. This made the process streamlined, quicker and easier. It still included the HSE’s risk matrix using colour-coding to identify the high, medium and low risks identified but it wasn’t a multi-page form and the language was kept simple.

Risk assessment became relevant and doable without taking excessive time and trouble. There was an assessment record for every job raised and safety controls were planned and provided for at the planning stage. This reduced lost time for repairs workers getting to a job and finding it could not be completed safely, or at all.

“PHSC’s support is a valuable asset to our company, they provide me with guidance and support whenever I need it”

Jason Ormrod. Health and Safety Advisor, Irwell Valley Homes

Frequent questions about risk assessments

At least once! Thereafter they need to be regularly reviewed. Re-assessment may be needed when a workplace or task is altered, before new materials or processes are used, or after any incident that throws doubt on the validity of the original findings.

This varies according to the type of assessment. For example, about 50 VDU workstation assessments could be carried out in three days, whereas a noise assessment will generally require a day on site and a day for writing up the report.

If you already use a particular report format, or have something in mind, we will work to your own design. Alternatively we will present the assessment in the form that we have found to be most suitable.

For more information on how In House can help you see > Appointed safety advisor service

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