14th July, 2022
A dynamic risk assessment involves assessing risk in developing and changing situations. You might not always be able to know the exact level of risk ahead of time. With a dynamic risk assessment, you can continually assess to allow for unknown risks and handling uncertainty.
Dynamic risk assessments are a special type of risk assessment. They should only be used in certain circumstances, although many types of risk assessment can include dynamic elements.
So let's take a look at the dynamic risk assessment in more detail and when you would use one.
Before you can think about using a dynamic risk assessment, you need to know what one is.
We can start with the definition of the word dynamic. Dynamic is in the Oxford Dictionary as 'constant change'.
- (of a process or system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.
And that's what a dynamic risk assessment is, an assessment of a task or activity that is in constant change.
If something constantly changes, how can we risk assess it? What if we can't know all the hazards until we start work? What if new hazards get introduced during the task? For example, if part of your job involves dealing with rapidly changing or unpredictable situations, how can you risk assess them?
You can use dynamic risk assessments to cope with unknown risks and handle uncertainty. They allow for:
A dynamic risk assessment is a process of assessing risk in developing and changing situations. You might not always be able to know the exact level of risk ahead of time. The risk levels might need to be continually assessed, even during the task or activity.
So what makes a dynamic risk assessment different from a "normal" risk assessment?
The 5 steps to risk assessment involve identifying hazards and assessing risk. You would usually do a risk assessment before starting a task or activity. And by planning ahead, you can decide what controls you need for the hazards you expect to find.
Actually, a dynamic risk assessment is very similar to any other risk assessment:
What makes a dynamic risk assessment different is that you don't know what hazards might be involved ahead of time.
It might surprise you, but a dynamic risk assessment is still a written risk assessment. You should record your dynamic risk assessments (and the choices made), just like other types of risk assessment.
In a fast-paced situation, you might make the record after dealing with the issue (instead of before).
Think about the police. Police officers handle challenging and dynamic situations on every shift. And afterwards, they complete the paperwork.
These decisions still need to be explained and justified, especially if something goes wrong. And you can learn from what happened and continually improve safety for your team.
Dynamic risk assessments are used when quick action to changing events is needed. Think of emergency services, for example.
When a police officer responds to an emergency call, what challenges will they face? They might have some information from the dispatch operator who took the 999 call, but it will be limited.
The caller might not know what's happened, or they might not have given accurate information, or the situation may have changed by the time the officer reaches the scene.
The continuous process of identifying hazards, assessing risk, taking action to eliminate or reduce risk, monitoring and reviewing, in the rapidly changing circumstances of an operational incident.
When you have planned and trained for dynamic risk assessment, you have the skills to assess the task as it happens.
As the situation develops, the risk level may change. And this is when a dynamic risk assessment is needed.
Going back to our emergency services example:
These are all questions that could not be risk assessed ahead of time. They can only get answered during the task through a dynamic risk assessment.
The purpose of a dynamic risk assessment is to address the unknown risk or changing circumstances. A dynamic risk assessment does not replace a risk assessment, and shouldn't be the only type of risk assessment you use.
They can, however, complement a risk assessment. It's a way of assessing any unknowns that cannot be predicted or changed during the task.
A written risk assessment should still be used to assess the level of 'unknown' risks. Don't forget, carrying out a risk assessment is a legal requirement, and if you employ 5 or more people, it must be written down.
When using dynamic risk assessment, you should still think about what risks are known. Likely and expected risks still need to be controlled as normal.
Where a certain element of dynamic risk analysis is required, workers need to have the skills and awareness to recognise and deal with danger. If there are significant changes, is the original risk assessment still valid? Should you try to deal with the situation? Is it safe to continue?
And the purpose of your dynamic risk assessment is to be able to answer those questions.
A dynamic risk assessment will usually need to be carried out by the person doing the work. When using dynamic risk assessments, it's usually only at this stage that the hazards become known.
For example, delivery drivers won't always know the hazards that will be present when they reach the location or site they are delivering to.
There could be a whole range of hazards present. The person carrying out a dynamic risk assessment needs to understand how to control them.
A dynamic risk assessment form [...] can be completed by drivers (who have been trained in how to complete them) if they arrive at premises where there are unexpected hazards...
Because they are performed on the spot, usually by the person involved in the task, dynamic risk assessments require:
In any situation when unexpected hazards may be present, the person completing the dynamic risk assessment needs to know what they are doing. They need to be able to assess the new risks.
A dynamic risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient, just like any other risk assessment. Have the risks been fully assessed? And are they controlled?
Because of the need to assess changing risks, extra training will help workers have the skills and confidence to make the right decisions.
Dynamic risk assessments are a useful tool to have when you are dealing with unknowns.
They can help you (and your team):
Using dynamic risk assessment to enhance your risk assessment process, and giving your team the skills to do them, can improve health and safety when dealing with new challenges.
When working together and facing a changing situation, dynamic risk assessment can improve teamwork and communication.
And because dynamic risk assessment requires extra training and skills, it can give workers the confidence and ability to make safer decisions in complex situations.
Because they cannot always be written down until after the event, dynamic risk assessments are easy to misinterpret. If two people are working together, and parts of the work are dynamic, both people need to understand the plan of action.
Unless communication skills are excellent, dynamic risk assessments are best suited to tasks involving a single person or small teams.
Clear channels of communication are needed to make sure that everyone involved understands the decisions that have been made, and follows the agreed procedures.
Recording events, decisions, and steps taken after events can also be tricky. In a challenging and quickly changing situation, you might not remember every small detail or reason.
Writing up reports soon afterwards can help make your records accurate. Using tools like cameras or taking notes on the job can also help you remember what happened in detail.
Need help assessing risks? Start with our free risk assessment calculator, or take a look at our pre-completed risk assessment templates.
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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