Under health and safety law employers must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. The most effective way of preventing injury or ill health in the workplace is by carrying out Risk Assessments.
Risk Assessments are a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, and they provide a framework to:
- Identify what could cause injury or illness in the workplace (hazards)
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (risk)
- Take action to eliminate the hazard, or it this isn’t possible, reduce the risk to an acceptable level (control the risk)
Assessing the risk is just one part of the overall process to control the risks in the workplace. To mitigate risk so far as is reasonably practicable a combination of control measures is often implemented (examples of controls are automation, providing the right tools/equipment, machine guarding, emergency shut-offs and other safety devices, physical barriers, information/instruction/training, PPE, servicing and maintenance, signage, inspection/testing etc.).
Despite a Company’s best efforts to prevent injury or ill health, things don’t always go to plan, so employers need to prepare to deal with unexpected events.
If a workplace incident occurs, employers have duties under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) to report certain events to the enforcing authority within a specified time period. The timeline for reporting and a list of specified work-related injuries, illnesses, and dangerous occurrences can be found on the Health and Safety Executive’s website (UK clients) or the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland’s website (NI clients). The relevant reporting forms can be submitted online. Once reported, the enforcing authority may investigate the incident further and companies are legally obliged to fully co-operate with the investigation.
Only specified incidents are reportable to the HSE / HSE(NI) however all incidents (no matter how minor) should be recorded in an Accident Report Book (BI 510) in accordance with Company procedure.
Reporting incidents should not stop employers from undertaking an Incident Investigation. An effective investigation requires a methodical, structured approach to information gathering, collation and analysis e.g.
- Statements (injured party and witnesses)
- Physical examination of equipment and PPE
- Induction/Training records
- Pre-use check sheets
- Servicing/Maintenance records
- Statutory Inspection records
- Risk Assessments
The purpose of an incident investigation is not to apportion blame but to identify the root cause and take action to prevent a reoccurrence:
- Investigating accidents and reported cases of occupational ill health will help to uncover and correct any breaches in health and safety legal compliance the Company may have been unaware of
- Thoroughly investigating incidents and taking remedial action to prevent further reoccurrences demonstrates the Company has a positive attitude to health and safety
- Investigation findings will also provide essential information for the Company’s insurers in the event of a claim
An investigation can help to identify why the existing risk control measures failed and what improvements or additional measures are needed. It can:
- Provide a true ‘snapshot’ of what really happens and how work is really done (workers may find shortcuts to make their work easier or quicker and may ignore rules which companies need to be aware of)
- Improve the management of risk in the future
- Help other parts of the organisation learn
- Demonstrate the Company’s commitment to effective health and safety and improving employee morale and thinking toward health and safety
How often should risk assessments be reviewed?
Companies should be continually reviewing and monitoring control measures in place, providing reassurance they are continuing to work effectively. Any changes should be recorded within your risk assessment documentation.