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17th October 2017

Health and Safety Risk Assessments – What do I Need to Record?

Introduction

Part of managing risk in Health and Social Care is having effective systems in place. Like all industries, none are free from risk so it is important that we manage it right. Social care is a complex sector with built-in unpredictability, so striking the balance between control and care is something many managers find difficult. Used effectively, risk assessments help to keep people safe, staff effective in their work practices and a home where residents feel cared for and secure. Poor risk assessments are not only ineffective, they become a burden and another tick box exercise to keep the regulator happy.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a document which helps companies manage the risks associated with their industry. It concerns people, where the work is done, the tasks to be completed and it puts measures in place to keep people safe in their environment.

Risk assessments don’t have to be complicated as they need to be workable, reasonable and proportionate to the environment in which they are carried out.

Why do we need them?

We need risk assessments to keep people safe as well as comply with legislation. If you have 5 or more people in your organisation then you must have a risk assessment and the findings must be documented.

Do I need training?

All staff should have a basic awareness of risk assessments, their function and how to follow them. As a manager, there are a number of training options available. However, IOSH courses (Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) ie: working safely or managing safely are the most popular and give a good understanding of the risk assessment process. What matters is that you have a good understanding of risk assessments in order to complete them. You don’t have to be a Health and Safety Advisor. The law requires that you are a competent person - someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the assessment.

How do I write a risk assessment?

The writing of a risk assessment uses a process known as 5 steps approach and considers the factors as:

Identify the hazards

  • Have a look around the work environment associated with the risk assessment and consider the hazards that could occur ie: slippy floor, damaged furniture, loose wires etc.
  • Have a look through the accident book or near miss reports to see what hazards have been identified for this activity
  • As this stage, we are just looking at hazards which could harm people

Decide who might be harmed and how

  • Vulnerable adults with physical and mental ill-health conditions
  • Visitors (ie: relatives of the family)
  • Health professionals ie: Nurse, GP, Social worker etc.
  • Cleaning staff and other staff
  • Those who may be lone working
  • Contractors on site (they might not be familiar with the environment)
  • Inspectors: CQC, Commissioners, Health Visitors etc.

Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

  • The level of risk which could cause harm
  • The necessary controls which would have to be put in place to manage that risk sensibly
  • The amount of effort, time and money to implement the controls measures
  • If the amount of time, effort and money to put controls in place is grossly disproportionate to the level of risk, then it would be unreasonable to implement
  • Remember you can only consider what is reasonable to expect would happen
  • Does the work need doing in the first place?
  • Is there a safer place to do the work ie: away from the public or residents?
  • Is there a safer option ie: a less hazardous cleaning product?
  • Can the work be outsourced and thus the risk taken off-site?
  • Do we have the skills within the team or is training needed?
  • Do we need control measures ie: barriers when cleaning a floor which is wet?
  • Do we need Personal Protective Equipment ie: gloves, safety boots, apron etc?
  • What welfare facilities do we need access to ie: water, first aid etc?

Record your significant findings

Having assessed the risks within your care home and evaluated them, there is a need to document this so those involved in the activity are aware of the risks and control measures in place. Don't forget to consult your workers as you may have missed something out. Your findings have to be reasonable and also workable. Finally, try to keep it simple.

Review your assessment and update if necessary

Your risk assessments will need to be periodically reviewed, ideally every 2 years unless something changes ie:

  • Legislation and best practice
  • An accident occurs
  • The environment changes ie change in shift patterns, increase in new workers etc.
  • Remember if practices change workers may need re-training in new safe working practices

Do they collect dust on a shelf?

Whilst this may seem a silly question, often risk assessments are developed without consulting workers, from a desktop without seeing the risks to be assessed. Workers need to be involved so they can take ownership and responsibility for following them through. Assessments are more likely to be followed if workers have been involved in the process, as their views have been listened to.

Show me the legislation?

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 section 3 requires that:

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,

(6) Where the employer employs five or more employees, he shall record—

(a)the significant findings of the assessment; and

(b)any group of his employees identified by it as being especially at risk.

Summary

To keep residents, staff and visitors safe, managers need to ensure a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is completed of any significant hazards, make a record of them and periodically review them to ensure they are fit for purpose. Finally, consult your workers and get them on board – they should be part of the process.

References

Risk – Controlling the risks in the workplace (HSE):

http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/controlling-risks.htm

Risk Assessment - A brief guide to controlling risks in the workplace (HSE) INDG163:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.pdf

FAQ (HSE) on Risk Assessments:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/faq.htm#q2

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Dave Bennion

Health and Safety Specialist

Dave is a multi-sited safety practitioner with extensive experienced in health and safety, fire safety, environmental management, quality and lean management consulting in a variety of industry setting. Dave is also the Director of DGB Health and Safety Ltd based in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

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