Michelle Pitkin, CMIOSH, Health & Safety Advisor for Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and Vice-Chair at the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Fire Risk Management Group and IOSH Council Member, provides ATF Professional with her thoughts on risk assessments and what should be considered when carrying out a risk assessment at premises including ATFs.
Risk Assessments are a requirement under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (legislation.gov.uk), but for most, they are not something we look forward to doing; they can be seen as a chore, a task that creates extra work and paperwork and takes much time to complete, but this shouldn’t be the case.
Risk assessments need to be suitable and sufficient and should look at foreseeable hazards with sensible control measures set in place to minimise the risk of the hazard occurring. The best way to achieve a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is to involve as many people as you need; workers, managers, supervisors, subject matter experts (SME), trade union representatives, safety representatives, and safety advisors. Each person involved will approach the assessment differently and will have a different thought process resulting in a detailed risk assessment being achieved.
Following the five steps to risk assessment will ensure you have covered all requirements.
The five steps are:
- Identify the hazards
As part of the process, ask ‘what could give rise to harm being caused?’
When risk assessing, hazards should be foreseeable. A foreseeable hazard is a hazard that is to be expected to be present in relation to the activity being assessed; a hazard that is imaginable, or that is known to have occurred in the past. You are not looking for the weird and wonderful; keep it simple; keep it realistic. If only one or two hazards are noted, as long as this is a true reflection of the activity and all significant hazards have been identified then don’t keep looking for hazards. People feel that they must have a long list of hazards for it to be a ‘proper’ assessment; this is not the case.
- Identify who might be harmed
Think about who might be harmed by the hazards, and who may come into contact with the hazards present. Think about everyone, not just employees; contractors, agency workers, contractors, visitors, expectant mothers*, young workers*.
- Evaluate the risk
What is the level of risk occurring from the hazard? The risks should be properly evaluated and should take into account the severity of harm and the likelihood of that harm arising from the hazard.
Measures (controls) should be put in place to ensure that risk levels are to a suitable/acceptable level. The hierarchy of risk control should be considered when establishing control measures.
- Record the findings
You only need to be documented where you have five or more employees. However, it is good practice to document the findings even with less than 5 employees to be able to show that you have thought about and considered the hazards and required control measures.
There is no set format for recording the risk assessment. The HSE provide templates you may wish to use, along with some examples: Risk assessment: Template and examples – HSE
A review should be carried out on the risk assessment on a regular basis to ensure that the information is still current and up to date. Under your Organisation’s Management System, you may be required to carry out a review every so many set years. You should also review the risk assessment should also be reviewed after any significant changes have been made.
* Separate risk assessments should be carried out for expectant mothers or young workers as they are classed as ‘at risk’