5th August, 2021
You might realise you need to review your risk assessments from time to time, and many people tend to go with an annual review. But there are times when risk assessments might need to reviewed sooner. Let's look at when, why, and how often you need to update your risk assessments.
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?
You might think about reviewing your risk assessments once a year, but what if things change in the meantime? You might think you can review it if the regulations change, but risks assessments are about reducing risks, not just legal limits. You might wonder if you can just plan to review it if there are problems, but what if problems don't get reported?
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 probably realise you need to review your risk assessments from time to time. And many businesses tend to go with an annual review of all of their health and safety documentation. And that's a good place to start.
If you're not reviewing at least 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.
But annual reviews alone might not always be enough. There are a few situations where you may need to bring your review forward to see if you need to make any updates sooner.
Health and safety legislation is not static, particularly as new techniques, technology and work practices evolve. Regulations are constantly being reviewed, consulted on, and updated.
Changes in health and safety law happen twice a year, roughly every six months:
Don't panic. Not every regulation changes every year. That would be a nightmare to keep on top of - 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.
Recently the HSE consulted on future changes to other areas, including the radiation code of practice and workplace exposure limits.
If your risk assessment refers to a specific health and safety regulation or complies with one that changes on one of those dates, you should review it. Your review will check if it still complies with any changes made to the regulation, and you can update the risk assessment if you find you need to.
So you should be reviewing your risk assessments at least every year 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 and change over time. You find better ways of doing things, innovate, introduce new tools and equipment, streamline the process, and (hopefully) make it safer.
But those new procedures, equipment and substances you bring in could introduce new hazards. They might introduce risks as well as removing some that were there before.
When changes happen, you should take another look at your risk assessment and see if it is still valid, updating it if required.
When you first carry out your risk assessment, you might record further action measures needed and put an action plan together to carry out these improvements. For example, you could have decided to install a new conveyor belt to reduce manual handling. Or maybe you decided to get a new extraction or ventilation system to reduce exposure levels.
But not all improvements can happen right away. You have to plan for budgets or timeframes to get the work carried out. So later, when these control measures get introduced, the risk level will have changed (for the better). You can review and update your risk assessment again to reflect the improvements you made.
Once a risk assessment has been completed and put into action, the people doing the work might spot a problem you missed during the risk assessment process. Maybe a control measure or a procedure that isn't quite right. Perhaps a guard isn't compatible with a material you are using, or an item keeps getting jammed.
If problems come to light, it's an opportunity to put things right. You should review the activity and update your risk assessment where control measures need to be changed or where further improvements are necessary.
If any problems mentioned above don't get picked up quickly enough, then you'll likely end up here. Accidents and near misses can happen, and while you need to do everything you can to prevent them, you can also learn from them. And if you act quickly enough (e.g. when a near-miss happens), you can stop people from getting hurt.
Maybe you are getting quite a few near-miss reports for a particular task or activity. These near-misses are a clear indication that the risk assessment needs reviewing. If you can work out how you can prevent near misses, you can stop future accidents before they happen.
Accident and near-miss investigations are an opportunity to identify where weaknesses are so that you can re-assess the task and fill any gaps in your safety management.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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