Most businesses will be aware of the legal requirements to undertake risk assessments, as this is the foundation of today’s legislative requirements. But what needs to happen once the assessments are done?
It is clear to us that for many companies the emphasis from management is often too much on getting the first part done and then not taking action quickly enough. The problem here is that once a business is aware of the risks it can`t use the defence of the risk not being reasonably foreseeable. As part of the risk assessment process a business should include as a minimum:
- Informing the employees of the risks identified;
- Making a plan to control the risks in a reasonable timescale (relative to the risks);
- Going back to check on progress against the assessment.
But too often that’s not what happens. Take for example the case of Allevard Springs Limited in Clydach Vale, where a machine operator was impaled by two steel bars when he went inside an inadequately guarded machine to alter the production line. As he tried to adjust a machine his arm was caught in the machine and he suffered a broken arm and other injuries. 12 months later he is still receiving treatment. The company had undertaken a full risk assessment and identified the risks of employees coming into contact with moving parts, but crucially had failed to take any action to control the dangers. The company pleaded guilty to breaches of PUWER and were ordered to pay £20,000 in fines and costs.
We see this approach from many businesses through the various health and safety training courses we deliver. Many of the managers and supervisors seem to miss the importance of sharing the findings with the workforce and taking responsibility for implementation of improvements. Of course, by the end of the training they understand this and the personal implications of not taking responsibility.
Our warning to your business is to make sure you have a system in place to inform your employees of the risks and the controls needed to make the work safe. This might require an approach where the first step is to implement a safe system of work and to train the workers. It might then require a plan to install guarding or other controls. The important thing to learn is that risks should not just be ignored and that some type of action must be taken.