Health and Safety Advisors often get asked how much detail I need to go into in my risk assessments…. how do I know I have done enough?
The answer is your risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient.’ This means that you have carried out a proper check to identify ‘significant risks.’ Significant risks are risks that are not trivial by nature and can create a real risk to health and safety.
You are only required to identify ‘foreseeable risk.’ This implies a situation that could result in injury or damage and which could be predicted by a reasonable person with the necessary skills and knowledge.
However, do not fall foul of negligence laws; for risks involving a high technical nature that you feel are beyond your knowledge and understanding, you may need to appoint assistance from someone who is skilled and competent in the field in question.
- Have you done a thorough check?
Think about the work activity, look at the equipment, and the manufacturers’ instructions contain useful information that will help you.
- Don’t forget about non-routine tasks and maintenance.
- Consider long-term hazards such as noise and vibration.
- Have you consulted with your employees who carry out the task or use the equipment?
- Have you thought about everyone who might be affected, such as workers, visitors, anyone nearby, or persons who may be deemed vulnerable?
- Have you dealt with all the big, obvious risks, and the remaining risks are low?
Risk assessments should not be overly complicated; try not to use technical jargon that will not be understood by all.
You are not expected to eliminate all risks; however, you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against measures needed to control in terms of money, time, and effort.
An example of reasonably practicable would be where there is a high risk that a large number of people are exposed to it would be deemed reasonably practicable for an employer to go so a substantial expense in terms of time, trouble, and cost to reduce the risk.
Where the risk is deemed to be very low, it would not be reasonably practicable for the employer to spend large amounts of money putting in control measures to reduce it.
The decision above must be based upon health risks – and not the size or financial position of the employer!
Where you have five or more employees, you are legally required to document your findings. Howarths safety management system provided to clients contains an easy-to-use template based upon Health and Safety Executive (HSE) examples.
Finally, review your risk assessments at frequent intervals, usually annually, unless there are reasons for you to believe they are no longer valid, such as changes to equipment or work practice.
For further advice and guidance on the completion of risk assessments, contact your Howarths Health and Safety Advisor on 01274864999.