The Importance of Risk Assessments
Risk assessment is a vital step in making any workplace safer and although some people tend to look upon them as a time waster and paperwork nightmare, they are in fact essential. They perform several functions in making staff more aware as well as ironing out potential glitches. From an insurance point of view, if the worst happens and an accident occurs, having a fully written up and updated risk assessment will stand an employer in good stead, as it shows that they have been taking appropriate care of employees’ health and safety.
Getting to know the task
One of the best ways of getting to grips with a new task is to risk assess it. In doing a good risk assessment, the writer needs to take it step by step and really look in depth at what might go wrong, whether the best practices are being followed and how the job can be done at no risk to others. If a hazard is part of the task – for example, working in confined spaces or at height – then the risk assessment should take account of this and ways should be investigated to minimise or remove the risk, if this is possible. Risk assessments are not a redesigning of a task, but do give opportunities to revisit working practices and see if they can be improved.
By using the input of everyone who does the job or who manage people who do the job, the risk assessment will be as full as possible, with no risk of anything being left out. Sometimes the writing of a risk assessment can underline gaps in workers’ knowledge and training and this gives a good opportunity to put that right. The need for adequate training is a perfectly good step in the recommendations of a risk assessment and in fact could be the first point, with words to the effect that anyone who has not got up to date training should not undertake the task at all. Risk assessments should also be constantly updated, because few tasks remain the same for ever. Even if the change is as small as the introduction of a new piece of equipment tangential to the task, if it makes a difference, it should be added in, for the sake of complete record keeping and safety.
No one likes paperwork for the sake of it, but adequate risk assessments for every task are essential for a well-kept health and safety portfolio. Most employers are sensible and make sure that their employees know what they are doing and are aware of risks and dangers in the workplace, but without a written and signed off risk assessment, there is essentially no proof that this is the case. If anyone is injured and claims that they were unaware of the risks inherent in the task they have been asked to complete, an employer really has no leg to stand on without documentary back-up.