Why is reviewing important? – Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA)
Reviewing and monitoring the health and safety in your workplace is covered by the “Check” element of the PDCA cycle. While the “Plan” part takes care of the who, what and when of your OH&S activities and the “Do” incorporates all the regular activities such as pre-use check, risk assessments, training and so on, “Check” is the step where you find out whether what you are doing actually works.
Even if you have correctly verified all controls when the risk was originally identified, changes in the workplace over time can impact the effectiveness of any measures you have put in place to protect your staff. Periodically verifying the controls you have implemented as a result of a workplace risk assessment gives you a proactive way of uncovering potential hazards and taking action (Act) before someone gets hurt. It ensures that your health and safety management practices are up to the ISO 45001 standard.
When should you review your risk assessment?
According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999, a risk assessment should be carried out regularly to ensure regulatory compliance. Here comes the tricky part – the law doesn’t set out a defined time limit on when the next risk assessment should be done following the initial assessment. Significant changes in the workplace that can impact the findings of the assessments could prompt you to review your health and safety policies. Let’s look at some of the most common scenarios you should be monitoring for!
If an accident at work occurs, this means that your risk controls have failed. You must investigate the issue, review your existing policies and conduct a new risk assessment to find a better solution that protects your employees. Ideally, proactive monitoring can prevent this situation from happening.
If an incident occurs in the workplace but no one gets hurt, it’s referred to as a near-miss and it could be a sign that your risk management techniques are lacking. Here’s where you can truly show you are monitoring the effectiveness of your risk assessment over time by immediately taking action to investigate such incidents.
The people who do the groundwork have a unique perspective of the work environment that allows them to spot hazards before anyone else. After all, they are exposed to those risks day in and day out, so it is important that you are approachable and listen to your staff’s concerns. It can help you identify the need for a risk assessment review before anything has gone wrong.
Speaking of acting before anything bad happens, it’s a good practice to turn risk assessments into a routine task. Having one carried out every year is a form of regular maintenance for your risk management system and it is well worth investing in.
For your health and safety risk assessment to be monitored and reviewed effectively, you should always be up to date with the latest changes to the laws and regulations in your industry. Unfortunately, those can change often, so you need to make sure your risk assessments are compliant with the newest requirements.
The people who use the equipment are a big factor in how dangerous the workplace can be. When new members of the team start work you should not let that go unnoticed. They will require training to operate the machine safely and a risk assessment review can point you towards any other issues that could endanger them.
When new equipment and machinery is introduced in the workplace, it’s probably time to have your risk assessment reviewed. At the very least, comprehensive health and safety training should be given to all employees who will be using the equipment to ensure that they can operate it safely.
Are you planning to move premises or change the layout of your workspace significantly? Plan for a risk assessment to be carried out too! Even if you are using the same equipment and your staff hasn’t changed either, the work environment can impact the findings of the risk assessment.
The role of senior management
Simply put, if you are part of the senior management, health and safety monitoring is all up to you. As you can see in the above scenarios, the very nature of the risk assessment reviewing and monitoring process is proactive. If you ignore the warning signs and don’t pay attention to what your employees have to say, you are setting up your business for a disaster by building a negative health and safety culture.
As a leader, you should be the first to give an example and encourage your workers to come forward with any health and safety concerns that they may have. You may even consider offering praise and other incentives for those who are actively involved in the risk management process and who take the time to report near-miss incidents. Adopting new risk management tools to streamline the risk management process can also help improve the health and safety practices in your organisation.
If health and safety risk assessments are monitored and reviewed effectively, this shows your staff that you are invested in ensuring that they have the best working conditions, which is a great way of improving the satisfaction and productivity of your team.