Risk assessments are a valuable tool in any company's overall health and safety management plan. The issues sometimes however are that they become a stand-alone "task" rather than an integral part of your overall management of safety. |
Where you can gain additional benefits from the assessments is to use them as the bedrock for your overall safety management integrating them into your overall safety documents and safety inspections.
A risk assessment in simple terms is a process whereby hazards are identified, the controls that manage the risks from the hazard are identified and a measure of risk (or danger) is calculated. Good sources for information on RA are available from HSE (UK), OSHA (USA) and similar bodies around the globe.
The risk assessment effectively allows you to define the "safe" ways by which you work.
All too often though we use assessments as a stand-alone item yet when used to their fullest extent they can be an integrated part of your risk management strategy.
Depending on the size of your company and what safety documents you have there is a place for risk assessments within these documents. Especially in companies where the same hazards and controls will remain fixed for long periods or where the same hazards are repeated through the company's branches.
Used as a template for the controls that should be universally applied through a company they allow clear guidelines and rules to be set and create a master template for every site. Whilst no workplaces are ever identical in today's world of corporate branding its remarkable just how similar many branches within a company are.
Thus central risk assessments held within the main safety documents allow a clear and consistent message to be delivered and allow each branch a firm foundation upon which to develop site specific assessments by simply adding a few lines about their specific issues.
This is the most obvious example of where assessments can serve a double purpose. Risk assessments set out what should be happening - inspections check what is happening. So why not base the safety inspection form on the actual risk assessments? You probably can't check every single control every week but you can check the key indicators and indeed once a quarter actually fully check your assessments.
It means the safety inspection is highly focussed, it effectively means you're reviewing your assessment in an on-going manner avoiding the other issue of risk assessments being treated as a one off exercise and then forgotten for years.
In simple terms it can simply be a case of cutting and pasting the controls from the assessment to the safety inspection - but you can add to the value by ensuring that where the inspection highlights gaps or controls not in use it can immediately tell a Manager or Supervisor how that's impacting on their risks.
Further when reviewing inspections for trends it means you quickly identify issues with your original assessment and can thus amend this.
We all repeat the lines about reviewing risk assessments after an accident but all too often we fail to actually use it in the accident investigation. Investigating an accident means more than checking an assessment was done - it's about reviewing the whole assessment and not just to find gaps. Yes if a control was missed then add that control - but equally if the risk assessment was too idealistic and unpractical then sit down and review it - too many controls are as bad as too few in many cases.
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