Four industry leaders discuss the core purpose of risk assessments and the wider opportunities they present.
Emma Larkins CMIOSH
Consultant and tutor, The Bradley Group
Fundamentally, when acted upon, a risk assessment is a method of reducing risks, where reasonably practicable, and improving the health and safety of a workplace or process. Its purpose in practice is much further reaching. A risk assessment is an opportunity to engage the workforce, encourage input, and benefit from the wealth of knowledge that employees have. Risk assessment may essentially be a process for identifying and managing risk, but in the wider sense, it can actually be an effective tool for fostering and improving the health and safety culture of an organisation.
John McNamee CMIOSH
Co-founder and principal consultant at Ravensdale Health, Safety & Wellbeing
A risk assessment is first and foremost a method of protecting people, organisations and societies. It is a risk management tool to identify potential hazards, assess the likelihood of them occurring, and then map out the potential impact on groups, individuals, businesses and the wider community of such hazard(s) should they be realised. Often labelled as an OSH function, a risk assessment is actually an essential and complex tool that could be used as much to manage a global economy as to meet the health and safety legal duties of small- and medium-sized enterprises and the self-employed.
Amy Goldsbrough CMIOSH
Regional health and safety manager (North West), Unite Students
The simplest definition is that a risk assessment is a method to identify hazards, implement controls and protect people and businesses from harm. But while OSH is developing and changing, along with our people and the way we work, risk assessments are also evolving. They’re an integral part of everyone’s roles. All employees need an understanding of them, whether they do them in their heads or on paper, alone or as a collaboration. Risk assessments should become a way of thinking, a natural part of carrying out their job, rather than a box to be ticked to confirm completion.
Samantha Mepham CMIOSH
Partner, health and safety, Rider Levett Bucknall
The clue is very much in the name – a risk assessment is a tool used to identify hazards and assess the risks caused by an activity being undertaken. However, it’s important to understand that a risk assessment is for nothing if it is not effectively communicated, applied and maintained. What is the point of a piece of paper or saved document if it is not seen or used by those it could help keep healthy and safe? A risk assessment allows us to think about and work through the consequences of our acts and omissions. At its best, a risk assessment is for saving lives.