Jump to content

Risk Assessment


Recommended Posts

In response to Paulears "missive" on risk assessments for computer monitors, I thought the subject deserved its' own topic.


So, have we lost the plot when it comes to risk assessment?

I believe that many people (and organisations & government bodies) have lost track of what the purpose of a risk assessment is, or ought to be.

For me the important part of an RA is the process not the documentation. And let's not forget that we all do RA's during the day. When you cross the road you have a look at the traffic, judge if you can make it across before that large truck would hit you and decide if it is far enough away to walk, or you have to run, or wait until it has passed. That's a RA.

Where it becomes interesting is how you then use that information. If it is for yourself you take some responsibility, but if you use it to instruct someone else, as you would in a employer / employee situation, then you should make sure you have factored in all the variables not to put that person in danger.


I think many people overreact to regulations and start making assumptions. Things like monitor screens don't (or shouldn't) need a full detailed RA. But an office environment would need a basic one to identify what could cause harm to people. What then should happen, if we stay with the monitors, is a basic entry in the OH&S Manual that explains the potential risks of staring at a screen all day and what can be done to avoid eye damage, based on a little research (Google is your friend). But it doesn't need another filing cabinet to store a 300 page report on monitors!

The important part is the sharing of information that can help people from damaging themselves due to a lack of knowledge or understanding.


But it remains important to go through the process of a RA otherwise many risks may be overlooked and turn against you at some point in time. And it doesn't matter if it is an office or a stage or a construction site (the latter two often very similar) although the outcomes will be very different.


And finally, HSE May 2007. For me that says it all and in fairly plain English.


Opinions anyone?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm working on instilling a sensible approach on the next generation. Over the next two 1/2 terms the kids at work will be doing "Pre-U" practical investigations as part of their physics course. I've asked for RAs from all of them, stating clearly that "No significant risk" is quite acceptable. Not however, from the ones that want 5kV power supplies, glass to break, or the radioactive sources!


Note:- The isotopes are in fact not very active at all, but this is one area that you do need to go through the hoops!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always say that generally, risk assessments are the application of what we over a certain age used to call common sense.


A colleague of mine refers to Common Sense as:


"That sense that I assume you have in order to interpret my misguided instructions"



Link to comment
Share on other sites

R.A's are a way to cover your arse against incompetence biting you in the arse.


If your in charge of health and safety, then those persons do everything in their ability to cover their backsides against people doing something dangerous and wrong, OR experienced people doing things that are safe, proven, explainable, but they don't understand. (I.e plugging two 4 way's into each other, but with only 7 50w things plugged in to the 7 sockets)


The expression of "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" should be written on 99% of health and safety inspectors card/ID/shirt.


Those guy's that shut event's down and know their stuff have to explain their reasoning, and therefore are explainable to the organiser. So if you disagree with them, ask why, ask for explanations as to what is wrong, why what your doing is wrong, ask for the rule's and reg's.

Don't be afraid. If your wrong then take it on the chin and learn from it. But if their wrong and you know your stuff, don't back down and stand your ground!


If everyone cave's in, then we will have unworkable environments to do the stuff we know is safe, tried, tested and certified.

Half day training courses don't cover everything ;)



Link to comment
Share on other sites

In most ways I agree with Jimbo, though his initial comment could be interpreted as a tad cynical. RA's are a simple means of demonstrating the duty of care that an employer has towards others including his employees.

Agreed that lots of the current crop of graduate EHO's have little real-world, practical experience, but that is the way it is. It has been my experience that, given time and a non-confrontational approach, they can learn.

Agreed that some officials seem to want to assert their authority, but you can allow them that whilst informing them of your own competence.

Agreed that there are some "H&S Officers" who have a paper qualification with limited hands-on time but they too can be educated by people with knowledge.

RA's can be used to show these people that an employer knows what he is talking about, mainly because he has the technical expertise and they only know the paperwork. I believe that RA's should be as brief as possible and as simple as possible, they have to be read to be of any use. That means that they should never just be filed away, I often use them as active check lists to make sure that I remember everything. They are also organic in that as the work progresses then circumstances and hazards change, another reason for not filing them away, they need to adapt. As an aside, RA's are legal documents which are called upon in court cases and not having one could leave you open to substantial penalties.

Jimbo's main thrust is absolutely spot on, if you really do know your stuff then stand your ground. One major way to show that you do is to have good, clear, concise RA's that prove your "duty of care" has been fulfilled.


And to Jim, my favourite saying is:"There's nowt common about common sense. It's as rare as rocking horse sh1t"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the most important thing to remember is, as has been said above, Risk Assessment is about the process and not the final bit of paper.


It would be foolish to start a new project / activity without having a sit down and a think about what could be dangerous about it and what we can do about it and putting that down in writing for people to refer to hence we risk assess. The intended reason this is in law is to make sure people do think sensibly about what they are about to do and we have to prove that we have done so.



However the MOST POINTLESS THING IN THE WORLD EVER* is these companies who will come and "Do your risk assessment for you" all you end up with then is a bit of paper without the useful bit of the process! I was phoned the other day by somebody from a tin pot organisation offering to sell me the "Marquee Health and Safety Manual" which I could, according to them, get my employees to sign bits of (like using a sledge hammer etc.) which would then mean I would not be sued if they hurt themselves.


I have to admit I went off the deep end at this lady, turns out she knew naff all and was just selling so I got through to the boss and went off the deep end at him, strangely he couldn't explain how having a signed piece of paper would absolve me from all responsibility for ensuring my workers were safe!




*I can't prove this, I haven't seen everything in the world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don't we have ourselves to blame?


-years of suspect working practices

-decades of the 'The show must go on' mentality

-a failure to train staff properly

-a failure to put into place systems to prove staff are competent to do their job

- a failure to educate people around us about what we do



As Lou Reed wrote - 'You're going to reap just what you sow.'

Link to comment
Share on other sites

However the MOST POINTLESS THING IN THE WORLD EVER* is these companies who will come and "Do your risk assessment for you" all you end up with then is a bit of paper without the useful bit of the process!

That is a very valid point. I have to admit I am one of those people who assist companies with their RA's. In my defence however, my clients are mostly event and concert organisers on whose behalf I collect the documentation, and read & check it, from suppliers - staging, audio, lighting, power, etc. and follow-up where the systems of work are not satisfactory.

Why this works is that many event organisers (in the real world) may have great ideas and excellent "client management" skills, but not a clue when it comes down to practical technical knowledge. My job is to sort through all the provided Work Method Statements and RA's from each supplier, overlay them based on the schedule and find holes. For example you may get a RA from the audio company outlining how they protect the staff hearing during system checks - great, but the schedule shows that at the same time the caterer is setting tables in the same room, they have nothing in place to protect their staff because it isn't part of their job. That is just a small example of something that can be adjusted easily, change the schedule or get earplugs for all other staff in the room, if done before the day.


However, when it comes to actual suppliers, then no, I will not do their homework. I will guide them, sit down with all their staff, point out a few areas that they may have overlooked, explain why it is relevant, but then leave it to them to work through the process in detail.


But point taken and I'll have to see how I can improve on "building a safety culture" rather than just feeding it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
It is amazing how many people do not fully understand common sense and need to have it spelt out for them.


I'm not sure if I agree. Granted, some of the training and audit trail stuff that passes for real safety can smack of bureaucracy and nannying, but I'm old enough to remember many workplace practices that common sense said were daft, but were carried out simply because no one challenged them, or had the will to change the status quo.


For example. there was a code of practice regarding noise in the workplace for many years. Hearing loss from industrial noise was a known problem. Common sense would say, "let's work to reduce the noise at source, reduce exposure times and use hearing protection", but none of this ever got done, except for the odd ear defender being hung on a nail on the shop floor.


It took legislation to slowly bring industry to introduce the practicses and protection that common sense says we would have used "if we'd thought about it"...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

To be honest, my (day job) company has always (certainly in the 31 years I've worked for them) preached AND practiced safe working policies - and that's WELL before the words 'risk assessment' were coined by the popular culture.


As an apprentice, I was shown some pretty basic stuff, which I suspect is missing (sadly) from today's workplace.

How to use a screwdriver properly (daft as it sounds, there ARE right and wrong ways!)

Using hammers in a variety of correct ways, including 'drilling' a brick wall for a rawl plug with a rawl punch.

Lifting and moving techniques, covering things from cardboard boxes to steel & concrete manhole covers.

And the most on-topic topic - how to climb ladders and work safely - which included working at the top of a high pole in the worst that British weather can throw at you, trusting only to yourself and the wrap-around safety belt!


Then we were shown the horror videos that were the safety films - Screwdrivers stuck through palms, crushed thumbs from badly used hammers, and falls (and worse) from poor working practices atop a ladder...


It's true today that this same company is on a fastrack (with everyone else) to H & S meltdown, but even so, those early learned lessons stick with me now, even 30 years on..

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.