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Getting to grips with risk management

At a glance

  • Health and safety reforms are changing all the time, so it's important to keep your clients informed of the latest regulations

Addressing the compensation culture and reforming health and safety remains a key focus for the government, and keeping your clients in tune with these changes is very important.

A major aspect of this work centres on risk assessments, the worth of which have been challenged – most notably by the review led by Lord Young, whose findings provided the basis of the current reform agenda.

In 1993, general risk assessment became a statutory requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, and over the last two decades it has enjoyed an increasing profile. This is no surprise as, when done properly, risk assessments are the cornerstone of a structured, effective and transparent management approach to health and safety.

Top 10 tips for effective risk assessment

  • Adopt a proportionate approach given the nature of the organisation
  • Use competent advice
  • Focus on significant issues using published guidance
  • Concentrate on the adequacy of precautions, not estimations of ‘risk’
  • Compare existing precautions with official guidance/standards
  • Consider third party risks
  • Identify achievable improvements and develop into actions
  • Record findings accurately, capturing key considerations and any research undertaken
  • Track and close out actions for evidence
  • Set triggers for review based on time and changes to process, guidance and law

The right risk assessment

The problem is that some organisations are still wide of the mark when it comes to designing, implementing and maintaining an effective general risk assessment strategy and this can create more problems than it solves.

For some, this could mean that their approach is wholly lacking. For others, their approach may be inadequate in respect of their obligations or insufficiently robust to prevent accidents and defend negligence claims.

For brokers, it presents the opportunity to discuss risk assessment in detail with your clients and to help them forge an approach that is both robust and effective. Good risk assessments allow organisations to identify and implement sensible precautions that are proportionate to their activities and ultimately reduce accidents and ill health. They also demonstrate that all reasonable efforts have been made to operate safely if things do go wrong.

Under the Management Regulations, risk assessments should determine the extent of compliance with health and safety law and associated good practice. This will help your clients identifying any further precautions that might need to be implemented to meet requirements.

Risk assessments should consider all those who may be affected, not just employees – highlighting those who are particularly at risk. Critically, they need to be kept up to date in the light of relevant changes.

The approach should be structured and systematic, examining what actually happens and considering the effectiveness of existing precautions. It is also essential that those carrying out risk assessments are competent to do so.

Helping your clients identify shortcomings in their risk assessment processes will not only improve the risk they represent, but also tie you closer to them and highlight the sort of value that you bring to the relationship.

A defensive stance may be necessary

Of course, risk assessments won’t prevent workplace accidents on their own, but used as a first step to develop appropriate safe systems of work, which in turn are adequately implemented and monitored, they will have a significant impact on preventing them.

Similarly, it is important to remember that when faced with a claim, being able to evidence a ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessment is just one element of a defence.

Other aspects of the health and safety management system (such as policy, training and good record keeping) may also be called into question. Being in a position to demonstrate the adequacy of these too, will also be important in building a defence in any given circumstance.

Risk assessment is a must for many organisations, but it will only be effective if it is done properly, and this is where some organisations are falling down.

Redressing the balance is important if your clients are to mitigate the risks they face effectively and accessing the insight we have through Zurich Management Services, will help you deliver for your clients in this regard.

Image © Getty

For more information, get in touch

Huw Andrews | Practice Leader - Casualty | 07734 336441

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