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Are you really assessing the key risks to your business?

Only recently I delivered an IOSH Managing Safely course to a client and we asked a question to the managers attending:  “what are the key risks in their business?”.  What came back depended on the area that they managed …

  • Transport risks were uppermost at the site for the logistics and transport guys.  These included concerns over foreign lorry drivers and fork lift truck operations.
  • Machinery risks were the key concerns for the production guys.  These included potential contact with moving machinery and the problems of guarding all in-running nip points.
  • Chemical COSHH risks were raised as a concern by another group who felt that operators did not necessarily fully understand the potential harm the substances used could present.
  • Maintenance risks were raised by the maintenance guys as the need to respond to a variety of demands, usually under pressure presents a variety of problems.

As we moved through the training it was clear that although they each recognised that key risks existed they didn’t necessarily have them fully identified in their risk assessments.  For some, such as the Maintenance guys, they questioned how every potential task could be risk assessed; their approach is dynamic risk assessment.  This, they agreed, did present a number of challenges – particularly in relation to time pressures, often meaning the assessments did not get completed.

The problem here, as we discussed in depth, is that all legislation today is based around risk assessment; therefore a failure to assess is a clear breach of legislation.  As pointed out to them, the fact that we have been expected to risk assess our operations since 1992 means there is no defence that we “just haven’t had the time”.

What the group also discovered over the 4 days training is that in reality, where things go wrong it is so often down to human error.  This was a key learning point for them as they often rely on a safe system of work as a major part of their control measures.  If our staff are our biggest risk then can we really be sure they are going to follow these systems of working? I f not, then should our risk assessments not reflect this?

So why not take time to reflect on The key risks in your business and ask yourself: “are our controls reliant on the way people behave?”   If yes, then do your risk assessments consider what might happen if someone was, for instance, to take a short cut?

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