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Written by
on 13 January 2020

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Managing risk is important in any business, any industry, and every company. But it comes at a price – not that construction safety risk management is a costly exercise – it’s part of the fabric of every successful venture and helps to maintain stability and growth.

Without proper construction safety risk management, growth will always be limited and stability will be compromised. Safety management helps maintain a happy workforce, minimises the risk of staff downtime and helps retention; all of which are key to keeping the bottom line is a good place.

So how do you manage safety risks within an organisation?

In practice, it’s often wise to get outside help to assess your business needs, but as a first pass, there are five basic steps that can be taken to make sure things are at least moving in the right direction. Firstly, in order to manage it, you have to understand what it is.

In simple terms, risk management is the practice of identifying, evaluating monitoring and reducing (or mitigating) the risks present in a workplace or business. While we like to think there aren’t risks in business, there are. It’s a fact, and they need to be considered and managed.

As well as helping with the workforce morale and retention as noted above, done right, risk management can actually inform a business and the board of the risks that are inherent to their operation. By knowing and understanding what risks are faced, mitigation and avoidance are much more achievable.

In order to do this, there is a process or a framework that should be adhered to. this is a five-step process and it begins with the identification of any and all risks that apply to a business.

Five easy steps to risk management

Step 1 – Identification: A risk cannot be managed or reduced if it isn’t known about and identifying all the risks your business may face means considering every aspect of your operations.risks will fall into one (or more) of a number of categories including legal risks, environmental, market, regulatory and competition. This is not an exhaustive list, and there will be many more entries in your assessment, but as a starting point, these may uncover other areas – other risks – you hadn’t otherwise thought of.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many of these risks may not be identifiable without physically walking around and talking with your teams. any risk associated with manual handling for example or the physical processes that take place in a warehouse may not be properly documented.

By talking to people actually doing a job, the insight you will receive will be much greater. This process may also help staff to appreciate that their safety is a high priority for the company – being seen to actively identify risks can generate a trove of information that would otherwise be almost impossible to uncover.

Step 2 Analysis: Once risks have been recognised, the extent of each risk has to be confirmed. Some risks will by their very nature be more serious than others. While one risk might lead to a minor inconvenience for a short period of time, some risks will have the potential to bring the whole operation to a standstill. In any assessment and management process, there will be a prioritisation of high risk over low risk.

Both are important, but mitigation measures should be put in place for the ‘big-ticket items’ first. Another important part of the analysis is to map risks and make notes of any documents, policies and procedures that are linked or related to them. With such a mapped framework, the possible extent of risk can be spotted.

Step 3 Evaluation: While analysis deals with seriousness and severity of risks, evaluation is more of a prioritisation exercise – but this is intrinsically linked to the results of the analysis. The ranking process involved in evaluation is key in determining what action needs to be taken. It may be that a company identifies a number of vulnerabilities, all of a low level, which can be dealt with fairly far down the management hierarchy and without any involvement of the board.

However, just one high rated risks – that has the potential to bring the whole business to its collective knees – will almost without exception require the involvement and intervention at the highest level.

Step  4 Treatment: It makes sense that you don’t want to have risks present in your business, but eliminating them altogether is simply not feasible. Where a risk cannot be realistically removed, it comes down to containment; mitigation; reducing the risk as much as possible, without bankrupting the company at the same time.

This is referred to as minimising risks ALARP – or As Low As Reasonable Practicable. This is the balance to apply in all walks working life. If a risk is low level, and may only cause minor, short-term inconvenience to a couple of processes every now and again, spending a lot of capital on removing the risk doesn’t make sense.

In this situation, any steps that can be taken simply and cheaply to mitigate or reduce the risk would be seen as acceptable.

Step 5 Monitor and review: The final step in this simplified process is to continually monitor – especially any risk deemed catastrophic, and also those that are deemed acceptable. Identifying a risk as minor is all well and good, but unchecked and without continual monitoring, a simple low-level risk could escalate and become more widespread.

Without continual review, a low-level risk like this could become a high-level risk, without any change in processes, practices or mitigation measures.

That sums up safety risk management in a business.

Don’t kid yourself that your company is operating at peak efficiency and that you are untouchable – that way danger looms. every business faces risks, and following these simple steps is a good starting point for management, but it’s worth consulting with an expert at some point to ensure nothing has been missed and the practices and procedures for continual monitoring and review are in place.

More often than not, it’s the final stage of that five-step process that gets missed out, and that in itself poses a high-level risk, so take the time to invest in some construction safety risk management – the chances are it will save you money – if not more.

A chartered health and safety consultant with 20+ years of experience. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. When David is not helping clients with his unique mix of knowledge and experience, he enjoys being a good dad, a good partner and prefers drinking wine to beer. Known to be good with compliance and a corkscrew. Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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