The Missing Step – Where Risk Assessment Goes Wrong

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) encourages conducting risk assessments in 5 steps. In their advice for small organizations the Irish Health and Safety Authority (HSA) bring this down to just three steps. In both cases, the first...

Written by Laura Fitzgerald

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) encourages conducting risk assessments in 5 steps. In their advice for small organizations the Irish Health and Safety Authority (HSA) bring this down to just three steps. In both cases, the first step is “Identify the hazards”. This first step is vital for adequate H&S risk assessment and management of the controls.

What is missing from both the HSE and HSA documented approaches is any definition of the scope of the risk assessment. Too many risk assessments bear titles such as “Work at height” or “Manual handling” or “Forklift trucks” with no descriptive statement to make the scope of the assessment clear. Organizations may wish to create template or generic risk assessments with these titles, but at the point that someone has to do a job safely they need a risk assessment that has been tailored for the job in hand.

Too often we see a “work at height” risk assessment that lists all possible means of access, from cherry pickers and scaffold to rope access and swing stages, but doesn’t remind the worker to check that the step ladder they are using is long enough to reach the loft hatch they need to access. Or risk assessments that list as a control “wear appropriate PPE” without having considered what “appropriate” would be for the task being carried out.
 

Using a generic risk assessment instead of a specific risk assessment cost waste management company Veolia a Fine Of £450,000 – and led to brain damage for one of their employees.
 

When using EcoOnline to produce your risk assessments, the Risk Template Feature allows you to create generic risk assessments, and then tailor each one for specific tasks or for other locations. For example, create a generic risk assessment with the title “Forklift operations” with a description that explains what sort of forklifts have been considered and in which working environment. When a specific task is being considered the assessor can read through the description and see if the generic assessment can be tailored for the current purpose.


If the generic assessment considered only diesel forklifts, and electric forklifts are going to be used, additional hazards related to batteries will need to be added, and those hazards relating to the use of diesel should be removed; if the original assessment was for indoor use, it will need to be changed to apply outdoors. If the description has been well written it will be easy for the assessor to determine the most appropriate assessment to clone, and what to adapt. Once cloned, the first task is to modify the title, eg to “Forklift operations in the loading bay using electric forklift” and then adapt the description to explain the specifics of the task being assessed.
 

If you wish to get more information and find out how EcoOnline can provide help for your Risk Assessments, or help you streamline any of your organization's H&S processes why not Contact one of our super friendly product experts or Request A Demo.


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