Written by: Stuart Platt

During our Audits and inspections, we often come across risk assessment that are generic templates (not specific) and do not reflect the activities being observed i.e. missed hazards, not site specific or the controls documented are not the ones implemented etc. Usually on further investigation it is identified that they were written by one person, workers were not consulted or involved with the development. Most of the time workers could not recall what was within the risk assessment and enough monitoring has not taken place to ascertain their suitability to the tasks at hand.

A sound risk assessment can produce the following benefits:

  • Reduce incidents and accidents i.e. risk of injury/damage to equipment etc.
  • reduced business down time.
  • reduced chance that the business may be the target of legal action.
  • lower insurance premiums.
  • reduced losses of cash or stock etc.

Risk assessments do not need to be weighted down with a lot of information; this is where the K.I.S principle comes in handy ‘keep it simple’. You want and need your workers to understand the information and follow it. Recently several court cases have questioned the ‘worthiness’ of these documents. With, the current risk assessments that your organisation has in place, can you answer the next questions;

  • Have they been purchased online?
  • Was the workforce consulted?
  • Were they only created by one person?
  • Was there a site inspection beforehand? (documented)
  • Do they reflect the current activities being conducted? (are they fit for purpose)

Recent successful prosecutions with regards to risk assessments were able to be obtained because the organisations/entities could not demonstrate that their people had been consulted, communicated with or could recognise the hazards.

The organisations that were not prosecuted were able to demonstrate that their people had been consulted with, had hazards communicated to and could identify the hazards.

In the end, it also doesn’t matter what these risk assessments are called e.g. SWMS, JSEA, JSA, JHA etc. What matters is that they are adequate to cover the current tasks being conducted.

Recently Worksafe WA has released a media alert regarding non-compliant SWMS review from The Construction Industry Safety Advisory Committee (CISAC) which reiterates that SWMS must comply with legislative requirements.

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