How to Write a Risk Assessment
Risk Assessments and Method Statements are most commonly requested for Construction Work. Many companies don’t have their safety consultant prepare site paperwork such as risk assessments and method statements for them, they prefer to save a few quid and go it alone.
If you can get a Risk Assessment right first time, this is great!
But many sub-contractors and some Safety Managers don’t get it right and find the paperwork being returned for amendment. Fine if you’re ahead of yourself, but most trades do turn up on site expecting to start work immediately. As a Safety Manager, this reflects poorly if your paperwork is returned time after time.
So how do you get a Risk Assessment right first time?
We’re going to look at:
The Purpose of the Risk Assessment Process
The Information Required to Write Effective, Suitable and Sufficient Risk Assessments
Understanding the Requirements
The documents Required
So, Let’s Get Started…
Understand the Risk Assessment Process
The risk assessment and method statement for a job serve a few purposes.
- Meeting the requirement of the employer to provide a safe system of work (Health and Safety at Work Act)
- Meeting the requirement to risk assess tasks to be undertaken by employees (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations)
- Meeting the requirement of the employer to communicate with the employee (Health and Safety at Work Act)
- Meeting the Principal Contractors requirement to ensure the works on site are planned and managed (Construction (Design & Management) Regulations
A diligent Principal Contractor will ensure all sub-contractors on site have a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in place which has been signed onto by all their employees. Works will not be permitted to proceed until this is in place. However, it is presumed by many that everyone knows how to write a risk assessment and this is not the case.
The decision on if it is suitable and sufficient can lie with the Site Manager or the Health and Safety Manager dependent on the company. We check the sub-contractors risk assessments and method statements for all our Principal Contractor clients before they are sent to site. Most we pass, but if not, we advise on what is missing and why we don’t consider the documents to be suitable and sufficient.
If you are in any doubt what suitable and sufficient means, then please click and read our post that explains this. You will need the underpinning knowledge in that blog post for some of this blog post to make sense and understand how to write a risk assessment.
Understanding that the risk assessment and method statement will be checked, is the most important thing to understand here, but it is a concept which will serve you well and help build your professionalism and credibility. If your documents fail the appraisal and need rewriting on a regular basis, your client will question your ability and knowledge. Their client will remember you as the sub-contractor who doesn’t meet the basic requirements.
Pro-Tip 1 on How To Write a Risk Assessment
The person checking the documents will have a checksheet to ensure every requirement is met. If you can get hold of that checksheet, you can meet every requirement and get the job done right first time. There’s not usually any problem with getting the checksheet, you just need to ask. So, just call them and ask to speak to the Health and Safety Manager. They will appreciate you taking the time to do this as it means they are highly likely to only have to check the documents once. Trust me, when you’ve a stack of risk assessments and method statements to appraise, you really appreciate the sub-contractors that provide documents which meet your criteria.
To fully meet the suitable and sufficient standard and the criteria of the person assessing the documents, either a Pre-construction information pack or a pre-start meeting will be required. Looking on Google Earth and reading the quotation is not enough! Ask for the information you need. You need to know what access equipment will be used, is lighting provided, where are the power points, what are the permit requirements. This is not a list. This is just a few examples of what needs to be communicated.
Most Safety Managers, myself included, work from a template document and fill in the site specific information. Some Safety Managers, work purely from the checksheet and produce different looking documents dependent on the items on the list. I take the first approach as I find it a faster way to turn work around. I find producing a bespoke document each time is reinventing the wheel on a frequent basis. That’s me though, that’s how I do it, we’re all different. It doesn’t mean it’s the right way, it just means it’s the right way for me and my consultancy business.
So when you’ve got your checklist, you need to work through it thoroughly. Not “that should do” or “I think that’s what they need” but thoroughly. Read the requirement and think about why that information needs to be there. It might be to give the Principal Contractor information, such as emergency contact information, or it might be to give employees access details, such as which areas are out of bounds.
Pro-Tip 2 on How To Write a Risk Assessment
Layout your documents so they are easy to understand. The main aim of the document is to communicate information to the people who need it ie. The employees doing the work and the principal contractor supervising the works.
A risk assessment on the task is not enough.
The task risk assessment should detail the hazards, harms and control measures for undertaking the task. If you haven’t got your hands on our Risk Assessment Cheatsheets, it would be a good idea to get it now. The cheatsheets list common hazards, harms and control measures for a range of activities.
The Manual Handling Risk Assessment needs to be provided to demonstrate how each manual handling element of the task is being controlled to reduce the manual handling undertaken by operatives.
The Work at Height Risk Assessment needs to show how the Hierarchy of Control has been followed to reduce the risk of working at height.
The CoSHH Assessment should show the product information in an easily understandable way and also show again how the Hierarchy of Control has been followed to select the product used.
A Personal Protective Equipment assessment should be provided to detail the type of PPE required to undertake the task. Reference should be made to the PPE required in the task risk assessment but the PPE assessment details the equipment required. The best example of this is the attenuation specification required on hearing protection.
Evidence of Competence
Principal contractors will also want to know that the employees undertaking the work are competent and that the equipment used is safe.
Therefore you will need to provide:
- Evidence of training (CSCS Cards, Trade Membership numbers/cards)
- Work equipment registers (including last test dates)
- Thorough inspection registers for lifting equipment
- Proof of qualification for inspectors (PASMA)
- Proof of qualification for plant operators (IPAF, CPCS)
And, please, please check expiration dates. Don’t send out of date information, it’s unprofessional and gives the impression of a rushed job.
Check The Document
Many risk assessments and method statements for site work are failed because they contain the wrong names. Wrong site name, wrong address, wrong employee names. These fail straight away as if the basic information is wrong, chances are there isn’t the level of detail required.
Check, check and triple check the document before you submit it. Check it against your own standard of work, check it against the checklist of the person appraising it, check all the evidence is there and valid, then check it again!
It IS Worth the Effort.
It is a lot of work to get this done initially, but as you gain experience and knowledge, you can speed up this process. A little organization goes a long way, particularly if you are pulling these documents together regularly.
Pro-Tip 3 on How To Write a Risk Assessment
Set up a Dropbox folder with all the commonly used documents in. Share it with your client and they can access up to date insurances, qualifications and certification in there.
The Buck Stops with YOU
It is vital to remember that this process is not just to tick a box for a client. There are a lot of legal duties which are fulfilled with these documents and this process. Likewise, insurance companies expect their clients to comply with the law. By setting operatives to work without suitable and sufficient risk assessments and method statements the insurances may be invalid and you may not be covered in the event of an accident or personal injury claim
If you need help writing good risk assessments, get in touch.