Step 5 of the 5 steps to risk assessment is to 'review your assessment and update if necessary'. Sounds simple enough, but when, and how often, should you review your risk assessments?
If you are not already familiar with the 5 steps to risk assessments, check out our blog post - What Are The 5 Steps To Risk Assessment?
In this post, we will look at how often you need to review a risk assessment and the reasons for reviewing your risk assessment including:
You might realise you need to review your risk assessments from time to time, and many people tend to go with an annual review of all of their health and safety documentation.
If you're not reviewing annually, then it won't be long before clients or other people reviewing your health and safety documents (for example, health and safety accreditation schemes), send them back asking for up to date documents.
For example, CHAS require documents submitted for assessment to be within the last year.
Support this with examples of risk assessments and method statements or safe systems of work arising from those assessments completed in the past 12 months.
Health and safety legislation is not static, particularly as new techniques, technology and work practices evolve. Regulations are constantly reviewed, consulted on and updated.
Changes in health and safety law happen twice a year:
Not every regulation changes every year, but changes do happen.
For example, recent health and safety regulation changes include the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017, Explosives Regulations 2014 (Amendment) Regulations 2016 and Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
Last year the HSE consulted on future changes to other areas including the asbestos regulations and workplace exposure limits.
If your risk assessment refers to a regulation or complies with a regulation that changes on one of those dates, you should review it to make sure it still complies with any changes made to the regulation.
So you should be reviewing your risk assessments at least annually, and when regulations change.
But did you know there are occasions when you might need to review your risk assessments sooner than 12 months?
Your review could happen because of:
Most work activities evolve over time. You find better ways of doing things, innovate, introduce new tools and equipment, streamline the process, and (hopefully) make it safer.
But the new procedures, equipment and substances you bring in could introduce new hazards.
When changes happen, you should take another look at your risk assessment and see if it is still valid, updating it if required.
You might have recorded further action measures needed when you carried out your risk assessment and put in place an action plan to carry out these improvements. For example, installing a new conveyor belt to reduce manual handling, or installing new extraction or ventilation systems to reduce exposure levels.
Not all improvements can happen right away, because of budgets or timeframes to get the work carried out, but once they have been done, the risk level will have changed and you can review and update your risk assessment again.
Once a risk assessment has been completed and the work starts, those completing the work might spot a problem with a control measure or a procedure that hadn't been picked up during the risk assessment process.
Perhaps a guard isn't compatible with a material you are using, or an item keeps getting jammed. You should review the activity and update your risk assessment where control measures need to be changed or further improvements made.
Accidents and near misses can happen, and while they are bad and we do everything we can to prevent them, we can also learn from them.
Maybe you are getting quite a few near miss reports for a particular task or activity.
This is a clear indication that the risk assessment needs to be reviewed, to see how you can stop these near misses occurring, as next time someone could get hurt.
Accident and near miss investigations can be a good opportunity to identify where weaknesses are so that you can re-assess the task and fill any gaps in your safety management.