A pattern has begun to emerge when reading about the most recent prosecutions made by the HSE:
‘The risk assessment was out of date and not fit for purpose’
‘The company failed to have in place adequate risk assessments’
‘The risks associated with the work had not been adequately assessed’
We don’t doubt that in each and every one of these cases there was a risk assessment in place, however, in each and every case it has been deemed inadequate.
Risk assessments have been a legal requirement for decades now, so why is this still happening?
The truth is there are a number of common mistakes made when carrying out a risk assessment. Let’s take a look at these and what we can do to prevent them.
- Lack of communication
Your risk assessments should be created with the involvement of those carrying out the work to ensure the control measures decided upon are appropriate. Once completed, the risk assessments must be communicated to those carrying out the work so they understand what measures are in place to protect them and how to carry out the work in the safest way.
- Poor health and safety culture
People’s attitudes toward safety will vary. In high-risk situations you need to ensure that every person at every level within the organisation is taking health and safety seriously and takes action when this is not the case.
- Use of generic risk assessments
It is commonplace to have a generic risk assessment that is amended slightly for each job. This is fine, but you need to ensure the amendments are accurate and each unique element to that new job is covered in the updated document.
- Inadequate training
Risk assessments must be completed by a competent person with the appropriate training and experience for the activities being carried out.
- Risk assessments not reviewed or updated
It is a legal requirement to review your risk assessments at a suitable period so that assessments are kept up to date, meaningful and relevant. If you bring in new plant or equipment, a new process, new chemicals or in any way change what people do and how they do it, check your assessment to see if it needs updating. New regulations, approved codes or guidance should also trigger a check, as should accident and incidents.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 states that you must assess all reasonably foreseeable risks and reduce those risks as far as is reasonably possible. If you need any help with your risk assessments, please contact ProAktive Health and Safety on 01302 341 344.
By Rachel Cuff CMIOSH – Risk Consultant