This has become an increasingly common question from prospective clients who have initially attempted to complete an in-house DSEAR assessment. Those assessments have subsequently been questioned by the HSE when they have carried a site visit. The HSE stance has been that the assessments need to be completed by an independent party.
Technically this is not really true as long as the persons completing the assessment are suitably competent; trained and experienced. It seems to me that many fall down on the experience and this is what concerns the HSE. Training in-house staff in DSEAR only goes so far and is often a very expensive exercise. In fact we have one national client who, when looking to train staff with BASEEFA, determined it was a cheaper and more reliable option to have the assessments done by a third party.
Additionally there is the question “is the assessment really impartial or does it try to justify the status quo and avoid dealing with the big issues?”. When looking to comply with DSEAR there are many issues to consider in order to ensure a safe working environment and a compliant workplace is achieved.
Having completed numerous DSEAR assessments for a wide range of clients we find that 95% of businesses need to make improvements. These are often improvements that the business had not been aware of, yet posed potentially significant risks to the business. A good example of this is the failure to control static; which could provide the ignition source to a flammable atmosphere.
So to answer the original question – does the assessment have to be independent? No it doesn’t, but it really can add value if completed by the experts and will help the business to challenge the way it controls its risks. It also helps to satisfy the HSE by providing credibility that the assessment is truly independent.