Are Risk Assessments Important?
Risk assessment is one of the fundamental themes of any health and safety management system.
Risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.
The complexity of a workplace risk assessment can vary wildly, but for most, it’s best to keep it simple. Risk assessment is often seen as a thankless activity that has to be done, with little real benefit.
But why do we have to do it?
If you own or operate a business, it’s often difficult to see why risk assessments are important as a fundamental part of your business management strategy. However, by assessing the risks to your business, you can make informed decisions on what you need to keep your operations running smoothly.
But also, to operate in a way that prevents harm to people, the environment and of course, your bottom line!
Ready to learn more? Let’s jump into some more detail about why Risk Assessments are important for business…
The TRUTH about Why Risk Assessments are important...
There are plenty of good reasons that we should carry out risk assessment for our businesses, including moral, legal and of course, financial.
In many countries, including the UK, Ireland, United States and Australia, workplace risk assessment is mandatory as part of health and safety regulations.
3.—(1) Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of—
(a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
(b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking,
Let’s look at some real examples of severe events that have happened recently, where lack of suitable and sufficient risk assessment contributed to an accident that caused serious injury or fatality in the UK.
Why Risk Assessment are Important | Real Examples
Carlsberg fined £3m following 2016 ammonia gas leak
Carlsberg has been fined £3 million after a contractor died and another was seriously injured following an ammonia gas leak at one of its breweries.
Father-of-two David Chandler, 45, was killed and David Beak, now 57, was seriously injured. Twenty people needed hospital checks after showing symptoms of ammonia exposure.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that at its Northampton brewery Carlsberg had failed to put in place appropriate isolation controls to prevent exposure to ammonia before work started to remove a compressor from a refrigeration system.
On 9 November 2016 while the compressor was being removed, there was a large, uncontrolled release of ammonia.
Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company, pleaded guilty to charges under Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and Regulation 3(1) [Risk Assessment] of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The company was fined £3 million with costs of £90,000.
Sea food processing company fined after fatality involving forklift
A sea food processing company has been fined after a worker died following injuries sustained when she was run over by a forklift.
Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on 31 January 2018, that Karen Allen’ an employee of QA Fish Ltd suffered significant leg injuries as a pedestrian, following a vehicular collision in Scalloway, Shetland.
A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Police Scotland found that no site-specific workplace transport risk assessment had been carried out.
The company failed to implement effective arrangements for the management of health and safety and also failed to act on the advice of a health and safety consultant several years prior to the incident.
QA Fish Ltd of Blacksness Pier, Shetland have pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined £80,000, to be paid within 12 months.
The HSE commented that the accident ‘should have been prevented via suitable and sufficient control measures segregating pedestrians from vehicle movements‘.
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Spring manufacturer sentenced after worker severs fingers
A spring manufacturing company has been fined after an employee had two fingers of his right hand severed whilst attempting to lubricate a bandsaw.
Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how on 2 October 2019, a labourer employed by Hanson Springs Ltd in Rochdale was assisting in the cutting back department to cut sections of steel spring using a vertical bandsaw when the blade began to smoke and squeal.
The worker decided to replace the blade, as on inspection it appeared heavily worn. He attempted to lubricate the new blade, by pressing a cardboard tube of wax onto the exposed section of it whilst it ran. The tube was drawn in, in turn drawing in the worker’s hand, severing the middle two fingers at the first and second knuckle respectively.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that although the worker had received training from the supervisor in using the machine, it was of poor quality, no formal competency assessment had been carried out, nor was he certain that he could use the machine unsupervised.
Furthermore, despite lubrication of the blades in this manner being standard practice within the company, it was unnecessary as the machine was self-lubricating.
Hanson Springs Ltd of Hanson Place, Gorrells Way, Rochdale, Lancashire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,394.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Lennon said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided. “Employers should ensure they carry out an assessment of the risks and put in safe system of works for the operation of all machinery.
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Sheetmetal fabrication company in court after worker’s finger crushed
A company specialising in manufacturing canopies and ventilation ducting has been fined after an employee’s hand was drawn into the rotating parts of a machine, resulting in serious injury.
Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how on 14 October 2019, an apprentice of R Briggs Sheetmetal Fabrication Ltd, was instructed by another apprentice and a trainee on how to operate a swaging machine.
This consisted of two rotating wheels controlled by a foot pedal, used to put a groove around a ducting tube. After carrying this process out on approximately four pieces of tubing, the apprentice was left to proceed on their own, unsupervised.
Whilst continuing the task a the fabric safety glove worn by the apprentice caught in the rotating wheels of the machine.
On releasing the foot pedal, the wheels took a few seconds to stop, drawing the apprentice’s hand between them. The employee suffered from a crushed fingertip and a fracture.
As a result of the incident the worker was unable to work for two months.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had not performed a risk assessment for using the machine or implemented any safe systems of work including recognising that the gloves presented a drawing-in and entanglement hazard on that machine.
They did not provide staff with adequate training or assess the additional risks presented by a young, inexperienced person working with machinery and being unaware of existing or potential risks.
R.Briggs Sheetmetal Fabrication Ltd of Bond Street, Colne, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The company was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,682.
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The above examples illustrate clearly why risk assessments are important for business, with far-reaching moral, legal and financial consequences for not carrying them out properly.
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