The second quadrant of the PDCA cycle includes the sub-parts of risk profiling, organising and implementing.
Effective leaders and line managers know the risks their organisations face, rank them in order of importance and act to control them.
The range of risks goes beyond health and safety risks to include quality, environmental and asset damage, but issues in one area could impact in another. For example, unsafe forklift truck driving may have a service or quality dimension because of damage to goods.
A risk profile examines the nature and levels of threats faced by an organisation. It examines the likelihood of adverse effects occurring, the level of disruption and costs associated with each type of risk and the effectiveness of the control measures in place.
Although an organisation may not use these precise terms, it will most likely have built a risk profile that covers:
- the nature and level of the risks faced;
- the likelihood of adverse effects occurring and the level of disruption;
- costs associated with each type of risk;
- effectiveness of the controls in place to manage those risks.
For some organisations, the health and safety risks will be tangible and immediate safety issues, e.g. machine guarding, whereas in others the risks may be health-related and it could be a long time before the illness becomes apparent. Degrading plant integrity could also lead to later emerging risks in some businesses.
Health and safety risks also range from things that happen very infrequently but with catastrophic effects (high-hazard, low-frequency events, such as an oil refinery explosion) to things that happen much more frequently but with lesser consequences (low-hazard, high-frequency events).
Clearly, the high-hazard, low-frequency example could destroy the business and would be high-priority in a risk profile.
‘Organising for health and safety’ is the collective label given to activities in four key areas that together promote positive health and safety outcomes (known as the 4 C’s):
The actions of leaders, line managers and supervisors are all important in delivering effective control of health and safety risks.
Organisations will decide their own approach to supervision. Whatever method of supervision is used, the role of a supervisor or team leader is important in implementing effective controls.
Because of the regular contact they have with workers, they can make an important contribution to making sure:
- everyone knows how to work safely and without risk to their health;
- all workers follow the organisation’s rules.
A supervisor can coach, help or guide workers to become and remain competent in these areas as well as others.
This means involvement of the workforce beyond the required legal minimum standard (i.e. more than consultation), where an organisation develops a genuine management/workforce partnership based on trust, respect and co-operation. With such a partnership in place, a culture can evolve in which health and safety problems are jointly solved and in which concerns, ideas and solutions are freely shared and acted upon.
The effect of workforce involvement is that operational practices and health and safety risk management are aligned for the benefit of all and with the co-operation of everyone (workers, their representatives and managers).
Involving workers is key to integrating health and safety as part of the everyday business rather than being seen as something done by somebody else. Organisations must find appropriate ways to involve their workers in managing health and safety. For smaller firms, this may be simply:
- encouraging open communications (e.g. toolbox talks, suggestion schemes, notice boards, or health and safety walkabouts) where workers can discuss or raise their concerns;
- giving recognition when workers identify risks.
For larger businesses, more formal health and safety forums or committees can be a means of enabling worker involvement.
Another important aspect of co-operation is co-ordination with contractors, as well as others in an organisation’s supply chain. As health and safety affects the entire workforce of an organisation, it makes sense for all workers to be involved in managing health and safety.
Anyone engaging contractors has health and safety responsibilities, both for the contractors and anyone else that could be affected by their activities. Contractors themselves also have legal health and safety responsibilities. Working closely with the contractor will reduce the risks to your own employees and the contractors themselves.
Organisations need to communicate information to their workers on the risk to their health and safety identified in their risk assessments, and the preventive and protective measures necessary to control risk.
The information provided should be communicated appropriately, considering:
- workers’ levels of competence;
- the size and structure of the organisation.
Organisations must appoint one or more competent people to help carry out the measures needed to comply with the law. It is important for organisations to decide the level of competence necessary to comply with the law.
A judgement can be made using the organisation’s risk profile. In smaller, low-hazard environments the role could be allocated to the owner or someone else in the organisation who does not necessarily have a qualification but does have knowledge and experience of the business.
However, it is important that the nominated person can recognise issues outside their competence, so that more experienced advice can be sought where necessary. In larger or more hazardous environments the risk profile may point to employing a specialist adviser to comply with the law.
In addition to ensuring everyone is competent to carry out their work safely, and that there is adequate supervision to make sure arrangements are followed, workplace precautions will be easier to implement if:
- risk control systems and management arrangements have been well designed;
- those systems and arrangements recognise existing business practice and human capabilities and limitations.
The key steps:
- Decide on the preventive and protective measures needed and put them in place.
- Provide the right tools and equipment to do the job and keep them maintained.
- Train and instruct, to ensure everyone is competent to carry out their work.
- Supervise to make sure that arrangements are followed.
The control of relatively minor risks affecting all employees (such as ensuring passages and gangways remain free from obstruction) can be dealt with by simply stated general rules.
The control of more hazardous activities may need more detailed risk control systems. The control of high-hazard activities may demand detailed workplace precautions and a risk control system that needs to be strictly followed, such as a permit-to-work system.
The type, frequency and depth of maintenance activities should reflect the extent and nature of the hazards and risks revealed by risk assessment. The balance of resources devoted to the various risk control systems will also reflect the risk profile.
In some cases, the law requires suitable records to be maintained, e.g. a record of risk assessments under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
But documentation on health and safety should be functional and concise, with the emphasis on its effectiveness rather than the sheer volume of paperwork. Focusing too much on the formal documentation of a health and safety management system will distract from addressing the human elements of its implementation – the focus becomes the process of the system itself rather than controlling risks.