Down the rabbit hole of risk assessments

Vicki Filby-Filson
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
18th October 2022

I am often asked by customers if I can provide a list of the risk assessments that a business like theirs needs. The list of building and business-related risk assessments is simple and well understood such as fire risk assessment, Legionella risk assessment and stress risk assessment. However, beyond that working from any list could put any business in a situation where they have lots of risk assessments that don’t actually cover their own hazards. 

This is because the requirement is to assess risk rather than to ‘do a risk assessment’.  Consequently for most businesses, achieving the necessary suitable and sufficient assessment of risk is likely to require a mixture of risk assessments covering either location, a job role or specific activities or tasks. Typically a common situation we find is too many risk assessments with just a couple of hazards or lack of acknowledge of common hazards to the whole environment or job. For example, grounds teams having many risk assessments relating to using equipment, but no overall job description that considers things like manual handling, working outdoors (sun or cold) or lone working. These top level risk assessments for either environments or job roles can reduce a lot of unnecessary duplication. 

This week I was fortunate to attend and speak at the ISBA Health, Safety and Estates Conference where we discussed this issue. Independent schools like many workplaces require heads of department to take responsibility for reviewing their risk assessments periodically, to make sure they are still suitable. Schools, like all businesses also vary in size and resource and the time spent on anything has to be well spent rather than feeling like any overwhelming administration task that can have little value. Therefore, a smaller selection of comprehensive risk assessments not only makes them easier to review, but also usually easier to share with the personnel who need to read, understand and follow them. 

Our top tips for risk assessments: 

  1. Anyone doing risk assessments needs to be trained – don’t expect them to competently assess risk without this.
  2. Keep your risk assessment form simple – non health and safety professionals find the simplest HSE example form the easiest to follow. This means they focus of hazards and control rather than worrying about risk ratings.
  3. Don’t just review the risk assessments you have, but challenge them - can they be combined, do they cover everything, do you really do it and how can they be made better?
  4. Controls must be clear, specific and not ambiguous – specify exact PPE, inspections, maintenance, training etc. and say who does what.
  5. Consider the top level, site wide risk assessment – it can link to other risk assessments and can provide an invaluable overview assessment of risk.

If you need any help with the health and safety management of your building portfolio, please get in touch.