Businesses go to (or should be going to…) great lengths evaluating the risks to their employees’ safety, risk assessment being the tool used to perform this evaluation. Risk assessment is looking at a potential situation in the workplace which could give rise to an undesirable event and then deciding on how acceptable that risk is. Risk assessment should never, ever, be considered as a box ticking exercise, something with which to meet statutory obligations only, workers lives, and wellbeing depend on them. Risk assessment is not a ‘one-off’ event, it’s a continuous process which should react to change.
What then determines that a risk assessment needs to be reviewed and updated as necessary?
Firstly time, it is good practice to review risk assessments at set intervals, this provides an opportunity to review if there has been any change since the risk assessment was prepared (see below, as these may have slipped past without due consideration at the time) which may have affected its validity.
Changes which will influence that the assessment is reviewed out with a set review frequency are:
- As a result of accidents, incidents and near misses – if the work activity has been assessed and these are happening this could indicate that the controls implemented as a result of the risk assessment have been ineffectual or are inadequate. Effective investigations of accidents, incidents and near misses take account of risk assessments relevant to the work activity or conditions concerned;
- Change of work process – has the level of risk arising out of the work activity increased;
- Change of working environment – a risk assessment which is suitable for one location may not be appropriate for another;
- Introduction of new hazards – this could be equipment or substances. As the introduction of nanotechnology, biotechnology and advanced communications technologies become more commonplace, while this evolved technology will (hopefully…) make our lives easier, they will undoubtably present hazards which will need to be considered as they are established in the workplace;
- Introduction of new employees – especially those in ‘vulnerable groups’, such as young persons;
- New, or changes to existing, regulations, codes of practice, etc.
Once the impact of these changes have been considered and risk assessments have been updated accordingly a vital final step is ensuring that these changes have been effectively communicated to those affected by them (bearing in mind that further ‘fine tuning’ may be required as changes are implemented and end user feedback is collected and acted upon).
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Gary Foggo.