You wouldn’t organise to do a job and then complete the risk assessment afterwards would you? In my experience the answer is quite often yes, with the reason given that there isn’t the time to wait for the assessment to be done.
At one paper mill I remember working with the maintenance team who would have a person completing the assessment as the job progressed, such was the pressure to get the job done. This was better than not doing the risk assessment at all but clearly had its limitations; what if something went wrong? – what preventative actions might be needed?
This situation was demonstrated in a recent case taken by the HSE as outlined below:
A Lincolnshire firm that manufactures frozen potato products has been fined after a worker was burned by hot oil.
The health and safety manager at PAS (Grantham) Ltd sustained 10 per cent burns to his shoulder, upper arms, neck and back while he was overseeing the jet washing of a large oil storage tank on 27 November 2012.
The court heard that he had climbed between the guard rails on the gantry at the top of the tank to check how the work was progressing. As he did so he knocked a pipe connected to a pressure gauge, which came off and released oil over 160 degrees Celsius in temperature over his upper body. He was off work for over a month before later leaving the company.
The investigation by HSE found that the company had failed to carry out a risk assessment for the cleaning operation, and instead decided to do the work first and write it retrospectively.
PAS (Grantham) Ltd, of Easton, was fined £16,500 and ordered to pay £571 in costs after pleading guilty.
The HSE inspector commented that the whole point of a risk assessment is to ensure the risks associated with a particular task are considered and measures put in place to mitigate against them in order to keep workers safe.
If this business had an effective risk assessment process in place then it would be likely that this type of risk would have been identified and suitable precautions put in place to keep people away from the area. Waiting to do the assessment at a later date (in my experience) often means not doing one at all; at the very least, it’s tempting risk because things can and do go wrong. With no risk assessment the business has no defence and is open to a prosecution or FFI costs.
In this case the HSE said the health and safety manager was extremely fortunate not to be more seriously injured. If it hadn’t been for the incredibly quick actions of colleagues who dragged him to an emergency shower, this incident may have had a much more serious outcome.