Risk assessments

In this series, we delve into the XpertHR reference manual to find essential
information relating to one of our features. This month’s topic…

Legislation

There is now a plethora of regulations which require employers to carry out
risk assessments in relation to general or specific risks. These resulted from
the EC Framework Directive (89/391) and are often referred to as the ‘six-pack’
of health and safety initiatives. They were enacted initially in 1992 and some
have subsequently been amended. Often more than one set of regulations will
apply in any given situation. They are:

– The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 came into
force on 1 January 1993. They have subsequently been amended. The Management of
Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 came into force on 29 December 1999.
The 1992 Regulations did not impose any civil liability. However, the 1999
Regulations do impose civil liability in relation to duties owed to pregnant
women and young workers.

– The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 cover a wide
range of health and safety welfare issues and apply to most workplaces (except
construction sites and some types of mines).

– The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 replace the
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992.

– The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 came into force on 1
January 1993 and should be read in conjunction with the Health and Safety at
Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
which they supplement.

– The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 were enacted on
1 January 1993.

– The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 came
into force on 1 January 1993. They cover all workstations put into service on
or after that date, or moved after that date. Compliance for pre-existing
workstations was deferred until 31 December 1996.

Risk assessments overview

The cornerstone for risk assessment is the Management of Health and Safety
at Work Regulations 1999. They provide that the general principles of all risk
assessment should include:

  Avoiding risks

– Evaluating risks if unavoidable

– Actioning risks at source

– Controlling risks throughout the workplace/work activity

– Adapting work as appropriate to cater for individuals

– Ensuring the workplace is safe and healthy

– Ensuring work activity is safe

– Ensuring equipment, plant, and so on is safe

– Ensuring employees are adequately protected against risks

– Adapting the design of equipment, technical processes, and so forth so
they are safe

– Developing comprehensive safety policies including risk prevention,
technology, organisation and conduct of work and so on

– Providing employees with appropriate knowledge of risks and how to avoid
them.

Approved code of practice

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 are supported
by an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP), which defines risk assessment as being
the process of identifying hazards present in the undertaking, evaluating them
and taking into account precautions which are already being taken. A hazard is
defined as "something with potential to cause harm". A risk is
expressed as "the likelihood that the harm from a particular hazard is
realised". The extent of the risk covers the population which might be
affected by it, including the number of people who might be exposed to it and
the consequences to them.

The main requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work
Regulations 1999 are aimed at ensuring employers:

– Make "suitable and sufficient assessments" of risks to health
and safety and put in place appropriate "protective and preventive
measures" to eliminate or minimise them

– Make appropriate arrangement for the effective planning, organisation,
control, monitoring and review of those measures

– Appoint "competent persons" to assist in taking those measures

– Provide employees with proper instruction, training and supervision and
keep them fully informed of the risks to their health and safety and how to
avoid them

– Treat temporary workers likewise

– Put in place appropriate arrangements for the use, storage and handling
and transport of goods

– Co-operate with others sharing the workplace

– Put in place appropriate emergency procedures

– Provide health surveillance as appropriate where the assessment
demonstrates that specific health conditions are at risk

– When entrusting tasks to employees, take account of their capabilities
from a health and safety point of view

– Record findings of risk assessment and protective and preventative
measures where five or more employees are employed

– Review and update risk assessments if there is any reason to suspect the
original is no longer valid or if there has been a significant change in
relation to the matters to which it relates

Other regulations may impose more specific requirements, and the ACOP will
offer practical examples of what constitutes good practice.

Practical example

Judith Thomas has just started work in a factory, making underwear for a
major retailer. She will be using high-powered sewing machines and presses. She
has been told that sometimes the sewing needles snap and get caught in the
machines or are ejected. There is a high risk of injury from the machinery and
work activity. To ensure Judith is kept safe, her employer must:

– Ensure appropriate risk assessments have been carried out in respect of
all machines, and that appropriate protective and preventative measures are in
place

– Ensure machinery is safe to use, dangerous parts are properly guarded and
emergency controls are visible and accessible

– Provide Judith with appropriate personal protective clothing (at its own
cost), which might include goggles (to prevent eye injury from flying objects
such as broken needles) and protective footwear such as reinforced shoes (to
guard against foot injury from machinery, ejected needles, etc)

– Ensure Judith receives proper instruction and training, knows of the dangers
and how to avoid them and is properly supervised, in particular that she
understands that she must never remove the protective guards from the machines
and/or try to access any moving or otherwise dangerous parts

– Ensure Judith appreciates why she must, at all relevant times, wear the
protective clothing provided and warn of the dangers of not doing so

– Reinforce non-compliance with disciplinary sanction

– Ensure appropriate first aid is available in the event of injury

– Reinforce safety measures with appropriate warnings and notices on
machines and around the workplace

Action point checklist

– Make sure machinery is properly
installed by competent and, where appropriate, qualified people, and is safe to
use

– Ensure employees understand risks and dangers and how to
avoid them

– Ensure personal protective equipment is appropriate for the
task, is provided and is used by employees

– Reinforce the safety message with appropriate warnings,
notices and so on

– Do not let employees work if they are not wearing necessary
personal protective equipment

– Do not allow anyone who cannot appreciate the safety
requirements (or those who are particularly vulnerable perhaps because of the
fact that they are young, pregnant or have a pre-existing injury or disability
which renders them unsuitable for the task) work with dangerous machines

– Do not allow staff to use faulty machines or those where the
safety guards or controls are not fully functional

Questions and answers

What do the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare)
Regulations 1992 cover?

A wide range of health, safety and welfare issues and apply to
most workplaces (except construction sites and some types of mines). They cover
all aspects of the working environment, including temperature, ventilation,
lighting, housekeeping and hygiene, and are supplemented by an Approved Code of
Practice.

Do any specific regulations govern
the use of work equipment?

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which
are supported by an Approved Code of Practice, govern the use of work
equipment. These regulations implement the EC Machinery Safety Directive,
simplify and clarify health and safety laws regarding the provision and use of
work equipment and provide a single set of health and safety requirements
concerning all equipment provided and used for work.

What is the purpose of the Manual
Handling Operations Regulations 1992?

They emphasise that employers should, where possible, avoid the
need for employees to undertake manual handling activities. In the event that
this is not reasonably practicable, employers are required to make a suitable
and sufficient risk assessment, take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of
injury and, in taking those steps, take account of precise information on the weight
of each load, and the heaviest side of any load if the centre of gravity is not
central, and review such assessments in the event of significant changes.

Which regulations pertain to the
provision of protective clothing?

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
cover the provision, maintenance and use of personal protective equipment at
work. They govern a wide range of personal protective equipment, including
safety boots, rubber gloves, aprons, eye protectors, and so on, that is intended
to be worn or held by workers for their protection against one or more risks to
health and safety.

Which regulations govern the use
of visual display equipment?

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations
1992 cover all workstations put into service on or after 1 January 1993. Under
the regulations, employers are required to analyse workstations, taking into
account the various factors set out in the Schedule to the Regulations,
identify and assess risks and reduce them to the lowest extent reasonably
practicable.

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