19th January, 2021

The Purpose Of Writing Method Statements And Risk Assessments

Why do businesses create method statements and risk assessments? It might seem like you are just going through the motions to satisfy legal and client demands, but are there any other benefits? If you're wondering if these documents are just another box to tick, keep reading...

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Why do businesses create method statements and risk assessments? What purpose do they serve? These documents, often known as RAMS, aren't just about complying with legal requirements. Yes, they do that, but they can also create a healthier and safer workplace, which brings many business benefits. Risk assessments and method statements help you to:

Comply with the law

Employers have legal health and safety responsibilities, and these are documented in various health and safety regulations, starting with the Health and Safety At Work etc Act. In fact, even before the regulations, you have a duty of care for your employees. All businesses have a legal requirement to risk assess the health and safety risks arising from the work they carry out. If you employ 5 or more employees, then you also need to keep a record of your assessment. We have covered in more detail in other posts about how risk assessments are a legal requirement in almost all circumstances, and in many high-risk situations, method statements are also required by law.

Client requirements

For many businesses, they will often find they need to write new risk assessments and method statements when they are awarded a job and asked for a copy from their clients. In the construction industry, for example, you will be asked for your health and safety documentation on nearly every new project you start. The client will ask for these documents because they want to check how the work will be carried out safely. You will be working on their sites, and maybe even with their own staff, and making sure this is done safely and without risk to their workforce, visitors or business will be a top priority.

person writing at a desk

So risks assessments are required by the law, and method statements may be required by clients or others involved with your business. It might seem like you are just going through the motions to satisfy legal and client demands, but are there any other benefits to writing these documents, other than satisfying external requirements?

As it turns out, there are lots of benefits to creating a method statement and carrying out risk assessments for your activities. Yes, of course, one of these benefits is to comply with legal requirements, but there are a variety of other benefits that can be gained other than complying with the law. After all, if the regulations place a legal duty on you to do something, it is not usually just for the sake of it. There's often a reason, and in this case, the reason is safety.

The purpose of writing method statements and risk assessments is ultimately to get you to plan the health and safety management of your work, to minimise and control the risks in an appropriate way, and to protect your workforce and those that may be exposed.

Plan your work

Carrying out your assessment encourages planning for the task or activity. Rather than just going ahead with the work, and finding out the risks as you go along (by which time one of your employees has lost an arm), you think about the challenges of the task first. Consider what hazards you might face, and how you can control the risk.

Failing to plan safety is planning a safety failing (not the most catchy saying in the world - but true!)

Put controls in place

It's much easier to put controls in place when you are writing your method statements and risk assessments than later on when the work is being carried out.

During the planning stages, you are in a better position to gather resources for the activity and decide on the most appropriate controls. You also have time on your side. If you are already on the site or doing the task, it's often too late to look for a safer way to do things without causing delays.

Make better decisions

Thinking ahead about how the work will be done, and considering the options available helps you make better decisions. For example, your risk assessment may identify a number of controls that can be put in place to improve health and safety standards for a particular activity, but it may not be possible to put them all in place right away.

Having these controls written down in an action plan on your document will help you to prioritise what needs to be done first, and decide when future improvements can be made.

Commit to health and safety

Writing out your risk assessment and method of work gives a degree of commitment to what is written down. Rather than a brief consideration, and perhaps discussing a few options, but not actually reaching a formal decision, by writing down your assessment you are committing to your decisions.

The document then forms a basis for the management of the activity that can be developed and amended in the future.

Communicate arrangements

The purpose of writing your documents is that they then communicate thoughts from those planning the work to those doing the work. Verbal instructions passed down through the management structure can get forgotten or misunderstood, whereas detailed written risk assessments and method statements provide clear instructions to your workforce.

person writing a document

Coordinate with other activities

Having written risk assessments and method statements allows coordination with other activities. You can often spot risks and hazards that might affect the task, that wouldn't necessarily be picked up on-site when you have your head down and are focused on only the task in hand.

Where an activity is in close proximity to a high-risk task, the risk assessment for the other task can be read, and the risks and controls associated taken into consideration for the task at hand. This sharing of information can help reduce the combined risks involved with multiple activities.

Monitor health and safety performance

Your written documents provide a record, not only to show you have complied with your legal duties, but as something you can refer back to, and use to monitor activities. Written records of decisions made, instructions given and feedback allow you to check that procedures are being followed, and identify any weaknesses in health and safety management.

Keep people safe

The ultimate purpose, of course, is to keep people (you, your team, visitors and others), safe. By planning ahead, assessing the risk, putting controls in place and communicating with your team how to work safely, you can create a safe place of work. And by documenting the process, you can monitor and continue to improve health and safety standards.

Don’t leave your health and safety documents on the shelf, use them in your business, and benefit from improved health and safety planning, commitment, communication, coordination and records.

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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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