There are many principal steps

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There are many principal steps in a typical risk assessment, the first thing to do is to walk around the building site spotting as many hazards as possible, a way to do this is by asking your workforce if they have spotted any hazards and if they do what they think could be done to make the hazard more safe to work around.

You then need to think about what groups will be affected by the remaining hazards around the building site as different people around the site with different roles have different needs in terms of equipment, time and space. Electricians can't work with electrics when the electricity is turned on, if it isn't turned off it could cause a main injury or even fatal, so areas of the site need the power cutting off and if other people are working in the same area and need power tools they will obviously have to wait until the electricians are done doing whatever that needs undertaking. If power tools are being used in an area where other people are working certain PPE may be enforced for there own health and safety e.g. if drills are being used ear protection or eye protection may have to be worn, or you could just move everyone else away from that certain area but that would slow down the rate of work being done by the others.

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Health and safety of the general public is a main priority for any building environment because if not done properly the company will be liable for prosecution, so you have to make sure that no one can get inside the building site that shouldn't be there so certain precautions have to be made. You have to make sure that the area is properly fenced with no breaks in it except for the entrances which should have a booking in desk with someone monitoring it at all times so you know who is on site and how long they have been on for, if scaffolding is being put up netting may be suitable to put round the scaffolding to catch any falling bricks or tools that may fall on the public or any member of construction team. You then need to list all the outstanding hazards and make sure that they are seen to appropriately to reduce the likelihood of accidents to the surrounding workers in the location. The recognising of the hazards you need to reduce them so far as reasonably practicable, an easy way of doing this is to balance what you have already been doing with good practice, if there is any difference make a list of what needs to be done. You now need to think how you will put the assessment into action, you must remember to prioritise.

Deal with and remove the hazards that are the most dangerous and have the most

serious outcomes first.

For each hazard you need to be clear about who can be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of managing the risk. That doesn't mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of people.

Remember:

  • Workers that have particular requirements, eg new and young workers, and people with disabilities may be at particular risk.
  • cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, who may not be in the work area all the time;
  • the public, if they can be hurt by your activities;
  • if you share your workplace, you will need to think about how your work affects others who are present, as well as how their work affects the staff talk to them!
  • Ask the staff if they can think of anyone you may have missed.

In each case, identify how they might be harmed, i.e. what type of injury or ill health might occur.

Having spotted the hazards, you then have to decide what to do about them. The law requires you to do everything 'reasonably practicable' to protect people from harm. You can work this out for yourself, but the easiest way is to compare what you are doing with good practice.

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So first, look at what you're already doing, think about what controls you have in place and how the work is organised. Then compare this with the good practice and see if there's more you should be doing to bring yourself up to standard. In asking yourself this, consider:

  • Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
  • If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
  • When controlling risks, apply the principles below, if possible in the following order:

  • try a less risky option (eg switch to using a less hazardous chemical);
  • prevent access to the hazard (eg by guarding);
  • organise work to reduce exposure to the hazard (eg put barriers between pedestrians and traffic);
  • issue personal protective equipment (eg clothing, footwear, goggles etc); and
  • provide welfare facilities (eg first aid and washing facilities for removal of contamination).

Improving health and safety need not cost a lot. For instance, placing a mirror on a dangerous blind corner to help prevent vehicle accidents is a low-cost precaution considering the risks. Failure to take simple precautions can cost you a lot more if an accident does happen.

Involve staff, so that you can be sure that what you propose to do will work in practice and won't introduce any new hazards.

Putting the results of your risk assessment into practice will make a difference when looking after people and your business.

Writing down the results of your risk assessment, and sharing them with your staff, encourages you to do this. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down, though it is useful so that you can review it at a later date if, for example, if something changes.

When writing down your results, keep it simple, for example 'Tripping over rubbish: bins provided, staff instructed, weekly housekeeping checks', or 'Fume from welding: local exhaust ventilation used and regularly checked'.

We do not expect a risk assessment to be perfect, but it must be suitable and sufficient.

You need to be able to show that:

  • a proper check was made;
  • you asked who might be affected;
  • you dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved;
  • the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low; and
  • you involved your staff or their representatives in the process
  • A good plan of action often includes a mixture of different things such as:

  • a few cheap or easy improvements that can be done quickly, perhaps as a temporary solution until more reliable controls are in place;
  • long-term solutions to those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health;
  • long-term solutions to those risks with the worst potential consequences;
  • arrangements for training employees on the main risks that remain and how they are to be controlled;
  • regular checks to make sure that the control measures stay in place; and
  • clear responsibilities - who will lead on what action and by when.

Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, you will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense therefore, to review what you are doing on an ongoing basis. Every year or so formally review where you are to make sure you are still improving, or at least not sliding back.

Look at your risk assessment again. Have there been any changes? Are there improvements you still need to make? Have your workers spotted a problem? Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses? Make sure your risk assessment stays up to date.

When you are running a business it's all too easy to forget about reviewing your risk assessment - until something has gone wrong and it's too late. Why not set a review date for this risk assessment now? Write it down and note it in your diary as an annual event.

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During the year, if there is a significant change, don't wait: check your risk assessment and where necessary, amend it. If possible, it is best to think about the risk assessment when you're planning your change - that way you leave yourself more flexibility.

The dictionary definitions do not correspond entirely with what epidemiologists or professionals in the field of Occupational and Environmental Health would understand these terms to mean. Hazard is not deemed to be synonymous with risk although it can be an important determinant of risk. Although risk may be related to a chance event and expressed as a probability, there is much more to it than that. Probability is not an entirely haphazard one of course but relates to a number of factors.

However in Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology, we prefer to define these two words as follows:

Hazard is the potential to cause harm; risk on the other hand is the likelihood of harm (in defined circumstances, and usually qualified by some statement of the severity of the harm).

The relationship between hazard and risk must be treated very cautiously. If all other factors are equal - especially the exposures and the people subject to them, then the risk is proportional to the hazard. However all other factors are very rarely equal.

Example

A bag of cement would not be considered by many to be a hazardous substance. A bag of it would not have a skull and crossbones depicted on it together with other hazard warnings, as might have been the case for a bottle of potassium dichromate However, if a construction worker was exposed over a period of time to airborne flour dust and/or dust by skin contact, he/she could develop dermatitis (an inflammation of the skin), conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes), rhinitis (information of the nose) and even asthma - an inflammatory disease of the lungs which can cause a great deal of distress and may even by life threatening.

5 steps to risk assessment

Step 1

Identify the hazards

First you need to work out how people could be harmed. When you work in a place every day it is easy to overlook some hazards,

  • Walk around the site and look at what could reasonably be expected to cause harm.
  • Ask your employees or their representatives what they think, they may have noticed things that are not immediately obvious to you.
  • Check manufacturers' instructions or data sheets for chemicals and equipment as they can be very helpful in spelling out the hazards and putting them in their true perspective.
  • Have a look back at your accident and ill-health records - these often help to identify the less obvious hazards.
  • Remember to think about long-term hazards to health (eg high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances) as well as safety hazards.

Step 2

Decide who might be harmed and how For each hazard you need to be clear about who might be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of managing the risk. That doesn't mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of people (eg 'people working in the storeroom' or 'passers-by').

In each case, identify how they might be harmed, ie what type of injury or ill health might occur. For example, 'hod carriers may suffer back injury from repeated lifting of bricks'.

Remember:

  • some workers have particular requirements, eg new and young workers, people with disabilities may be at particular risk (e.g. dyslexia).
  • Extra thought will be needed for some hazards;

  • cleaners, visitors, contractors, maintenance workers etc, who may not be in the workplace all the time;
  • members of the public, if they could be hurt by the activities;
  • if you share your workplace, you will need to think about how your work affects others present, as well as how their work affects your staff - talk to them; and
  • Ask your staff if they can think of anyone you may have missed.

Step 3

Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Having spotted the hazards, you then have to decide what to do about them. The law requires you to do everything 'reasonably practicable' to protect people from harm. You can work this out for yourself, but the easiest way is to compare what you are doing with good practice.

So first, look at what you're already doing; think about what controls you have in place and how the work is organised. Then compare this with the good practice and see if there's more you should be doing to bring yourself up to standard. In asking yourself this, consider:

  • Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
  • If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
  • When controlling risks, apply the principles below, if possible in the following order:

  • try a less risky option (eg switch to using a less hazardous chemical);
  • prevent access to the hazard (eg by guarding);
  • organise work to reduce exposure to the hazard (eg put barriers between pedestrians and traffic);
  • issue personal protective equipment (eg clothing, footwear, goggles etc); and
  • Provide welfare facilities (eg first aid and washing facilities for removal of contamination).

Improving health and safety need not cost a lot. For instance, placing a mirror on a Dangerous blind corner to help prevent vehicle accidents is a low-cost precaution considering the risks. Failure to take simple precautions can cost you a lot more if an accident does happen.

Involve staff, so that you can be sure that what you propose to do will work in practice and won't introduce any new hazards.

Step 4

Record your findings and implement them

Putting the results of your risk assessment into practice will make a difference when looking after people and your business.

Writing down the results of your risk assessment, and sharing them with your staff, encourages you to do this. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down, though it is useful so that you can review it at a later date if, for example, something changes.

When writing down your results, keep it simple, for example 'Tripping over rubbish: bins provided, staff instructed, weekly housekeeping checks', or 'Fume from welding: local exhaust ventilation used and regularly checked'.

We do not expect a risk assessment to be perfect, but it must be suitable and sufficient. You need to be able to show that:

  • a proper check was made;
  • you asked who might be affected;
  • you dealt with all the significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved;
  • The precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low; and you involved your staff or their representatives in the process.
  • Make a plan of action to deal with the most important things first. Health and safety inspectors acknowledge the efforts of businesses that are clearly trying to make improvements.

    A good plan of action often includes a mixture of different things such as:

  • a few cheap or easy improvements that can be done quickly, perhaps as a temporary solution until more reliable controls are in place;
  • long-term solutions to those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health;
  • long-term solutions to those risks with the worst potential consequences;
  • arrangements for training employees on the main risks that remain and how they are to be controlled;
  • Regular checks to make sure that the control measures stay in place; and clear responsibilities - who will lead on what action, and by when.

Remember, prioritise and tackle the most important things first. As you complete each action, tick it off your plan.

Step 5

Review your risk assessment and update if necessary

Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, you will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense, therefore, to review what you are doing on an ongoing basis. Every year or so formally review where you are, to make sure you are still improving, or at least not sliding back.

Look at your risk assessment again. Have there been any changes? Are there improvements you still need to make? Have your workers spotted a problem?

Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses? Make sure your risk assessment stays up to date.

When you are running a site it's all too easy to forget about reviewing your risk assessment - until something has gone wrong and it's too late. Why not set a review date for this risk assessment now? Write it down and note it in your diary as an annual event.

During the year, if there is a significant change, don't wait. Check your risk assessment and, where necessary, amend it. If possible, it is best to think about the risk assessment when you're planning your change - that way you leave yourself more flexibility.

D1

Probabilistic techniques have developed in recent years into an effective means of assessing risk assumed during major construction projects. It has been shown that the innovative construction methods being used are the most cost effective means of construction and are within the current technical capabilities of the construction industry. Risk assessment is a method that can identify, estimate, quantify, and evaluate the risks associated with these innovative construction concepts.

Various types of risk assessments can be undertaken during the course of a construction project. Typically, these phases include the feasibility, design and analysis, plans and specifications, and construction phases.

If comprehensive risk assessment data are not available, data estimates can be made. Historical data from examples of similar marine construction projects are a method of quantifying an independent check of risk assessment results.

Although informal risk evaluation and intuition have always been an integral part of construction management, formal risk assessments can significantly influence major decisions throughout all project activities by determining and quantifying safer, less costly alternatives and mitigation procedures with minimized risk.

There has been good progress towards the all industry Revitalising targets of 2000 and there are encouraging signs that the industry has taken ownership of its health and safety performance and worked hard to achieve the lowest incidence rates ever, although the industry is still falling short of its own ambitious targets set at the 2001 Construction Summit.

Construction injury rates since 1999/2000

There has been very good progress in reducing injuries due to falls which has traditionally been one of the main causes of fatal and major injuries. However, slips and trips and manual handling injuries are increasing. In 2005/06 there were 981 major injuries caused by slips, trips or falls on the same level.

Most of those accidents could be easily avoided by effective management of good order issues on sites. In particular sites need to be kept tidy, which is hard work and requires persistence. There needs to be more focus on these areas, while maintaining the progress on falls from height.

Number of major injuries to employees in Construction by kind of accident, 1996/97 - 2005/06(p)

ASSESSMENT OF RISK

Once hazards have been identified, they should be assessed in terms of their potential to do harm, both now and in the future.

When making an assessment on the possible risk to health and safety, the following should be considered:

The likelihood that they will do harm (Probability);

The severity of the harm they could do (Consequence); and

The number of times people are exposed to the hazard. (Frequency)

The assessment of the risk is a process of gathering information in order to make a clear and educated decision on which controls need to be implemented to eliminate or minimise the risk level using all reasonably practicable measures.

RISK CONTROL

Once hazards are identified and assessed, measures to eliminate or minimise them should be determined in accordance with the hierarchy of control.

HIERARCHY OF CONTROL

  1. Elimination Best
  2. Substitutions
  3. Isolation
  4. Engineering
  5. Administrative
  6. Personal Protective Equipment Worst

Control measures which make the workplace safe are likely to be more effective than measures which protect employees from a hazardous worksite.

When adopting measures to control a hazardous risk, the hierarchy should be followed when selecting the approach to be taken.

Measures from the top of the hierarchy give better results and should be adopted wherever possible.

Measures from the bottom of the hierarchy are more difficult to maintain and should be regarded as interim measures until preferred ones can be implemented.

THE HIERARCHY OF CONTROL

ELIMINATION

Elimination completely removes the hazard and is the ideal control solution. Examples of elimination include ceasing to use a hazardous substance and changing a process to remove the need for a hazardous action.

SUBSTITUTION

Substitution is where a hazard is replaced by a less hazardous alternative. For example, instead of using a hazardous item of plant or equipment, substitute it for a less hazardous item that serves the same purpose.

ISOLATION

Isolation involves separating the hazard from people by the use of physical barriers to contain/enclose the hazard or by distance and/or time. An example is using a fully automated rather than a manual process.

ENGINEERING CONTROL

If elimination, substitution or isolation cannot be used effectively the next preferred measure is engineering control. This can include modification of tools and equipment, guarding and local exhaust ventilation.

ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL

Where an unacceptable health and safety risk still remains, administrative controls should be used.

This involves the introduction of work practices which reduce risk by limiting the exposure to the worker from the hazard.

Measures include;

  • Reducing the number of workers exposed
  • Reducing the period of exposure
  • Rotating workplace activities,
  • Special procedures to be followed for the use of chemicals evacuation procedures
  • Placing signs
  • Effective training
  • Documentation

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Personal protective equipment must be used where all other control measures have not been fully effective. Practicable efforts to remove health and safety risks using measures higher up the control hierarchy should continue.

APPLICATION OF CONTROL HIERARCHY

The employer should attempt to control the exposure of the worker to hazards by first assessing whether the most preferred control measure/elimination is possible.

If elimination is not possible, the employer should assess whether the next preferred control measure can be achieved. This process of assessing the hierarchy of control measures should continue until the first control measure that is practicable can be achieved.

HAZARD MANAGEMENT SUMMARY

Identify all hazards

Assess the levels of risk associated

Control the risks using control hierarchy principles

Consult with all members of the work team

Report all accidents and incidents no matter how small to your supervisor

Regularly review the work process to ensure all members of the work team are complying and to highlight any possible areas for improving hazard management systems.

Control measures for excavation

For any trenching or excavation work a risk assessment should be conducted in order to identify the fall hazards and determine which control measures will be implemented to eliminate or minimise the risks arising from those hazards.

If the risk assessment is for construction work where there is a risk that someone could fall 2 metres or more, physical fall prevention measures must be provided so far as is reasonably practicable.

The risk assessment should also take into consideration the security of the excavation, both during work and when left unattended. Consideration should be given to factors such as:

  • how long the excavation will be left open
  • Who may gain access to the excavation (including pedestrians and children).

Aside from 'high risk' construction work, SWMS and physical fall prevention measures are not mandatory when there is not a risk that a person could fall 2 or more metres, although persons have the option of using a SWMS and physical fall prevention measures for the work if the risk assessment identifies a need for such measures to be used.

Control measures

Control measures to prevent persons being injured from a fall from height during the excavation work must be provided and should be properly installed and maintained until the work is completed, or until a further risk assessment identifies that there is no longer any risk of persons falling into the excavation.

Some control measures that should be considered are:

  • the application of physical fall prevention measures
  • isolating the trench or excavation by the use of perimeter fencing, barricades, barriers, screens, handrails and trench covers, which are capable of preventing access or preventing a person from falling
  • pedestrian detours which should be clearly defined and protected
  • the provision of a safe means of movement between different levels of the excavation
  • the use of intermediate platforms for deep excavation, and
  • backfilling the excavation as work progresses.

When barriers are used they should be placed at least 2 metres from the edge of the trench where possible. They should be highly visible and capable of remaining in place during adverse weather conditions. Safety type tape is not an adequate physical barrier as it is hard to see in low light conditions and can be easily broken. Unless they are specifically designed for the purpose, barriers should not be used as guardrails.

Bibliography

  • CITB Construction site safety manual
  • College handouts
  • hse.gov.uk
  • cdm2007.org
  • labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/
  • ringley.co.uk
  • dbp.org.uk
  • fishergerman.co.uk
  • cskills.org
  • opsi.gov.uk