Although under various pieces of UK legislation it is a legal requirement for organisations to record and document the significant findings of risk assessments if they employ five or more people, it makes good commercial sense to record them so that a check can be made that all of the organisation’s activities have been assessed.
It is not unknown, for example, for gaps in risk assessments to be discovered during the implementation of say behavioural safety initiatives, i.e. assessments have been made of engineering tasks in workshops, but not for engineering tasks on a plant.
However, discovery of these gaps can only be achieved if the records are kept. Again, for expediency, it is not unusual for daily permit to work procedures to be used as the only proof of compliance to the risk assessment requirements.
Although the incorporation of on-the-spot risk assessments in permit to work procedures is laudable, these records tend to be discarded after about three months, resulting in the data being lost. Moreover, it is very difficult for such companies to know whether or not they have conducted risk Assessments for all their activities.
This often occurs in those companies which view the requirement for risk assessments as a bureaucratic burden. However, the advantages of keeping such records outweigh the perceived bureaucracy, as they can be used in many ways. For example, they can be used to:
- demonstrate to employees, board members, shareholders and statutory bodies (e.g. HSE) that the organisation is actually identifying, assessing and controlling risks
- identify or reinforce the need for capital expenditure to be allocated to control the risks
- reduce management’s time during periodic reviews of risks
- identify safety training needs
- identify potential unsafe behaviours during the implementation of behavioural safety initiatives.
So what should be documented in a Risk Assessment?
A record of a risk assessment must include details of the measures chosen to eliminate or control the risks, and the reasons for choosing them. The record is focused primarily on the activities taking place, while taking into account any particular situational constraints, the risks posed and the solutions adopted to overcome them.