Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

June 21, 2017

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Risk assessment – what are you doing wrong?

Day two of Safety & Health Expo began with a seminar looking at the bread and butter of OSH, risk assessment.

Mary Ogungbeje  delved into the topic exploring the best and worst practice regularly seen during her research of the risk assessment process.

Risk assessment is the second most common task undertaken by OSH professionals yet there isn’t huge amounts of research on how people are doing it, and what they are doing wrong, said Mary. “It’s important to look at not only the common things people are doing wrong, but share best practice too.”

Mary listed some of the most common errors as:

  •      Not involving a team
  •      Not designating a competent person
  •      Involving experts unfamiliar with the company
  •      Overlooking possible risk categories
  •      Not thinking about long-term hazards to health (only looking at the short term)
  •      Strictly following a checklist – which may lead to missing the dynamics of the working environment
  •      Trivialising significant hazards
  •      Overlooking second jobs
  •      Not considering 3rd parties
  •      Lack of coordination between employers and sub-contractors
  •      Not including people who may be particularly at risk
  •      Not recording equipment used only on special occasions
  •      Not utilising accident and ill health data records
  •      Not fully assessing the risk
  •      Creating a false sense of safety
  •      Moving from one scenario to another without completing the process
  •      Not taking account of preventative hierarchy
  •      Not prioritising the implementation of preventative measures
  •      Transferring the risk (making a new risk)
  •      Not consulting with workers about decisions of preventative action
  •      Seeing process as a one off
  •      Not supervising efficiency of measures
  •      Not recording the assessment

And some of the best practice as:

  •      Defining the scope
  •      Defining the approach
  •      Deciding who should be involved
  •      Identifying hazards
  •      Identifying possible consequences
  •      Estimating likelihood of possible consequences
  •      Estimating the risk
  •      Recording findings
  •      Ensuring transparency
  •      Ensuring consideration of human factors
  •      Handling uncertainty
  •      Acting on findings
  •      Reviewing the assessment

Mary looked in  detail at some of the more complex risk assessments OSH practitioners are now undertaking, including a worker returning to work after cancer, road traffic accidents and work related upper limb disorders (WRULD) in healthcare professionals.

When risk assessing someone returning to work after cancer treatment Mary listed many considerations including workload, barriers – such as medication, information and training, potential long-term impact, limitations to physical ability, psychological demands, travelling to and from work, emergency planning, and fatigue.

More information is available here.

Remember: be flexible, it’s all about the individual

Mary also explored the risk assessment process for driving at work after showing some startling fatal road traffic accident statistics, such as the fact that of 833 road traffic fatalities, 23% involved a worker.

Road risk assessment considerations included the recognition of cars and vans as mobile workplaces, training and information, work vehicle design factors eg blind spot mirrors and cameras, and developing safe driving policies.

Find out more here.

The final area of research looked at work related upper limb disorders (WRULD) in healthcare workers, it showed:

  •      76% did not have completed risk assessment
  •      Therapists without risk assessment were significantly more likely to report UL symptoms in the past 12 months than those without risk assessment.

There is more information here.


Mary Ogungbeje is Research and Development Coordinator at IOSH.

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