SAFEQUAL News & Blog

Designing safe practices into different job roles and business functions

The health and safety working practices need to be proportionate to the risk and appropriate to the nature of the work and the people doing it. How might a risk affect different groups?

Do you have young or inexperienced workers, pregnant workers, workers with a disability, migrant workers or ageing workers? Also consider your supply chain – if that is not properly managed, the actions of others in those networks can impact on your health and safety risks.

Consider all your activities, taking account of possible harm to:

  • employees;
  • contractors;
  • members of the public;
  • those using products and services;
  • anyone else affected by the activity, such as neighbours.

The law states that a risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’, ie it should show that:

■ a proper check was made;

  • you asked who might be affected;
  • you dealt with all the obvious significant risks, taking into account the number
  • of people who could be involved;
  • the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low;
  • you involved your workers or their representatives in the process.

The level of detail in a risk assessment should be proportionate to the risk and appropriate to the nature of the work. Insignificant risks can usually be ignored, as can risks arising from routine activities associated with life in general, unless the work activity compounds or significantly alters those risks. Your risk assessment should only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

3 - Risk Profiling

Organisations should aim to protect people by introducing management systems and practices that ensure risks are dealt with sensibly, responsibly and proportionately.

  • Profiling your organisation’s health and safety risks
  • Assess the risks, identify what could cause harm in the workplace, who it could harm and how, and what you will do to manage the risk.
  • Decide what the priorities are and identify the biggest risks.
  • Organising for health and safety

In particular, aim to:

  • involve workers and communicate, so that everyone is clear on what is needed and can discuss issues – develop positive attitudes and behaviours;
  • provide adequate resources, including competent advice where needed.
  • Implementing your plan
  • Decide on the preventive and protective measures needed and put them in place.
  • Provide the right tools and equipment to do the job and keep them maintained.
  • Train and instruct, to ensure everyone is competent to carry out their work.
  • Supervise to make sure that arrangements are followed.

Effective leaders and line managers know the risks their organisations face, rank them in order of importance and take action to control them - ‘so far as reasonably practicable’.

This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.

What types of risks need to be considered?

In some organisations the health and safety risks will be tangible and immediate safety issues, eg machine guarding, whereas in others the risks may be health related and it could be a long time before the illness becomes apparent. Degrading plant integrity could also lead to later emerging risks in some businesses.

Health and safety risks also range from things that happen very infrequently but with catastrophic effects (high-hazard, low-frequency events, such as an oil refinery explosion) to things that happen much more frequently but with lesser consequences (low-hazard, high-frequency events).

Clearly, the high-hazard, low-frequency example could destroy the business and would be high-priority in a risk profile.

Who should do the assessment?

A risk assessment should be completed by someone with a knowledge of the activity, process or material that is being assessed. Workers and their safety representatives are a valuable source of information.

4 - Organising

‘Organising for health and safety’ is the collective label given to activities in four key areas that together promote positive health and safety outcomes:

  • Controls within the organisation: the role of supervisors – leadership, management, supervision, performance standards, instruction, motivation, accountability, rewards and sanctions
  • Managing contractors – anyone engaging contractors has health and safety responsibilities, both for the contractors and anyone else that could be affected by their activities
  • Co-operation – between workers, their representatives and managers through active consultation and involvement
  • Communication – across the whole organisation, through visible behaviour, written material and face-to-face discussion
  • Competence – of individuals through recruitment, selection, training, coaching, specialist advice and avoiding complacency
  • Capabilities and training – help people gain the skills and knowledge, and ultimately the competence, to carry out their work safely and without risk to their health
  • Specialist help – you may need specialist help if your business has hazardous or complex processes

You may need specialist help if your business has hazardous or complex processes. However, for many organisations a manager, leader, or competent member of staff should be able to take the necessary action to comply with the law. If you need to engage outside help, you must remember that you cannot devolve the management of health and safety risks to others. However, specialist or consultant help can be used to contribute to your overall health and safety management.

5 - Implementing your plan

In addition to ensuring everyone is competent to carry out their work safely, and that there is adequate supervision to make sure arrangements are followed, workplace precautions will be easier to implement if:

  • risk control systems and management arrangements have been well designed;
  • those systems and arrangements recognise existing business practice and human capabilities and limitations.

The key steps

  • Decide on the preventive and protective measures needed and put them in place.
  • Provide the right tools and equipment to do the job and keep them maintained.
  • Train and instruct, to ensure everyone is competent to carry out their work.
  • Supervise to make sure that arrangements are followed.

Documentation

Documentation on health and safety should be functional and concise, with the emphasis on its effectiveness rather than sheer volume of paperwork.

Focusing too much on the formal documentation of a health and safety management system will distract you from addressing the human elements of its implementation – the focus becomes the process of the system itself rather than actually controlling risks. In some cases, the law requires suitable records to be maintained, eg a record of risk assessments under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Implementing risk control plans

The control of relatively minor risks affecting all employees (such as ensuring passages and gangways remain free from obstruction) can be dealt with by a number of simply stated general rules. The control of more hazardous activities may need more detailed risk control systems. The control of high-hazard activities may demand detailed workplace precautions and a risk control system that needs to be strictly followed, such as a permit-to-work system. The type, frequency and depth of maintenance activities should reflect the extent and nature of the hazards and risks revealed by risk assessment. The balance of resources devoted to the various risk control systems will also reflect your risk profile.

4 Steps to continuously improving Health & Safety in your business

  1. Planning your Businesses Health & Safety
  2. Doing, designing safe practices into different job roles and business functions
  3. Checking, active and reactive monitoring
  4. Acting, lessons learned, feedback and continuously improving your Health & Safety Policy

Why people choose RISK for their Health & Safety training providers

RISK trainers are active Health & Safety consultants, this means they fully understand what it’s like to work in a manufacturing or construction environment. They have experienced the issues and challenges you face in your business and can help you develop robust implementation processes as well as provide the knowledge to pass the relevant qualification for your job role.

The information contained within this article is sourced from HSE Book, Managing for Health and Safety (HSG65) which can be downloaded here.

This information is relevant to NEBOSH courses and the CITB SMSTS and SSSTS courses


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