With health and safety laws continually changing and improving, people should be aware of the requirements of companies to eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. However, less commonly known is that, not all situations require you to conduct a risk assessment. This article will explore these situations and provide some guidance on when to conduct a risk assessment.
First, we should clarify the contradictory nature of this article. A documented risk assessment is by far the most valuable piece of evidence you may require in a court action. Therefore, it would be advisory to have some form of risk assessment documented. That being said, let’s explore how the model codes of practice handle risk assessments.
A risk assessment is a tool designed to consider what could go wrong if a person or persons were exposed to a hazard and then assess the likelihood of it actually happening. The risk assessment tool can help you assess how severe the risk is, how likely it is to occur, the effectiveness of existing controls, further control actions required, and priorities which risk to control first.
The model code of practice “How to Manage Health and Safety Risks” states that “a risk assessment can be undertaken with varying degrees of detail depending on the type of hazards and the information, data and resources that you have available. It can be as simple as a discussion with your workers or involve specific risk analysis tools and techniques recommended by safety professionals”. In this situation it would be advisable to at least have meeting minutes if discussing with your workers.
However, the code of practice goes on to say that a risk assessment should be done when there is any uncertainty about the hazard. If there are a number of differing hazards and types, there is a lack of understanding about the hazard such as new technology, and if there are any changes to the workplace that may have an impact on existing controls.
A risk assessment is mandatory for every situation, however, more assessment is needed for high risk activities such as entry into confined spaces, diving work, and live electrical work. There are other situations where a hazard may have a specific exposure standard, such as noise or airborne contaminants. In these situations, not only do you require a documented risk assessment, you may require scientific testing or measurement by a competent person to accurately assess the risk and to check that the relevant exposure standard is not being exceeded.
Lastly, the code of practice states that a risk assessment is not necessary when there is legislation that requires a hazard to be controlled in a specific way. For example, when working at certain heights fall protection must be provided. Another situation that does not require a risk assessment is when a code of practice or other guidance document illustrates a method of controlling the hazard that is applicable to your situation. You may choose to use the recommended controls.
There are many well-known and effective controls used in workplaces and specific industries across the world that will be common and suitable for your circumstances at your workplace. You can simply implement those controls. For example, when operating a noisy power tool, it is common and practicable to wear hearing protection. Why spend hours writing a risk assessment when the industry, the manufacturer, and authorities have already spelled out a simple way to control the risk? Don’t over complicate safety; it’s just common sense after all. Learn more about how Avetta can help with risk assessments.