This has been a question that many businesses have asked over the years as they become frustrated as to what level their assessments need to go to. It seems that many tend to look for the obvious dangers and then sit back and claim that anything else was not foreseeable (after all they don`t have crystal balls do they!!).
Only this month we have delivered training to a group of supervisors in the South West who had previously been trained that this was the right way to go about risk assessment (not by MESH we should add). However, as we explored the extent of their assessments and also discussed whether employees/contractors always work the way they are supposed to (to which the answer was often “no”) the penny dropped that their assessments did not go far enough.
We also challenged the group to identify if they felt they had completed risk assessments for all activities in their work areas; again we heard the words “this is impossible”. The feedback was that many tasks are non-routine and therefore they could not be expected to assess all of these, could they? Our answer was the legislation has been in place since 1992 so it may be somewhat difficult to argue that case.
So what can you expect in court? Well, recent decisions made by the Court of Appeal have made it clear that the way in which an accident happened does not have to be foreseeable; it’s a question of whether there a risk of injury from an activity was foreseeable. This confirms to us that your assessments should cover not only the obvious risks but must also cover other factors, such as:
- Not working to a safe system of work;
- Not following the training provided;
- How is the work done when there is no supervision in place?;
- When non-routine tasks are undertaken, etc.
Risk assessment is the foundation of most, if not all, Health & Safety legislation today and the key is to identify and then look to control any risks. How can this be done if your risk assessments only cover the obvious?
We believe it’s time for businesses to also consider the unthinkable, but possible; if not then they may well be vulnerable to prosecution.