The management of risk assessment

The management of risk assessment


Health risks


Risk assessment is not only concerned with injuries in the workplace but also needs to consider the possibility of occupational ill-health. Health risks fall into the following four categories:

•    chemical (e.g. paint solvents, exhaust fumes)
•    biological (e.g. bacteria, pathogens)
•    physical (e.g. noise, vibrations)
•    psychological (e.g. occupational stress).

There are two possible health effects of occupational ill-health.

They may be acute which means that they occur soon after the exposure and are often of short duration, although in some cases emergency admission to hospital may be required.

They may be chronic which means that the health effects develop with time. It may take several years for the associated disease to develop and the effects may be slight (mild asthma) or severe (cancer).

The management of risk assessment


Risk assessment is part of the planning and implementation stage of the health and safety management system recommended by the HSE in its publication HSG (65). All aspects of the organization, including health and safety management, need to be covered by the risk assessment process. This will involve the assessment of risk in areas such as maintenance procedures, training programmes and supervisory arrange-ments. A general risk assessment of the organization should reveal the significant hazards present and the general control measures that are in place. Such a risk assess¬ment should be completed first and then followed by more specific risk assessments that examine individual work activities.

HSE has produced a free leaflet entitled Five steps to risk assessment. It gives practical advice on assessing risks and recording the findings and is aimed at small and medium-sized companies in the service and manufacturing sectors. The five steps are:

•    look for the hazards;
•    decide who might be harmed, and how;
•   evaluate the risks and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more should be done;
•    record the significant findings;
•    review the assessment and revise it if necessary.

Each of these steps will be examined in turn in the next section.

Finally, it is important that the risk assessment team is selected on the basis of its competence to assess risks in the particular areas under examination in the organization. The team leader or manager should have health and safety experience and relevant training in risk assessment. It is sensible to involve the appropriate line manager, who has responsibility for the area or activity being assessed, as a team member. Other members of the team will be selected on the basis of their experience, their technical and/or design knowledge and any relevant standards or regulations relating to the activity or process. At least one team member must have communication and report writing skills. It is likely that team members will require some basic training in risk assessment.


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