Suitable and sufficient: finding the right balance in your risk assessmentsThe term ‘suitable and sufficient’ is a common phrase when it comes to workplace risk assessments. But what does it actually mean?
Suitable and sufficient are terms that are woven into the DNA of risk assessments.
The words are used in regulations are therefore commonly referred to in enforcement.
Suitability and sufficiency mean just those things.
Is the risk assessment that you are carrying out reflective of the scale of the task that is being undertaken and does it contain enough information that it will do the job that is asked as safely as possible?
SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
Sometimes we confuse ‘suitability and sufficiency’ with the size of the risk assessment document or format. Not every process and activity in your business needs to be risk assessed. For the purposes of your risk assessment, insignificant risks and everyday tasks associated with life in general can be ignored (unless your activities significantly increase that risk). Leaving things out of your risk assessment takes confidence, but you shouldn’t be afraid of leaving elements that pose low risk or no risk at all out of a risk assessment.
Risk assessments should help you prioritise actions, identifying areas where controls – and their monitoring and maintenance – are most important. Put your energy into the real risks that your colleagues face, because those are the things that are likely to cause them serious harm.
Put your energy into the real risks that your colleagues face
Insurers can also have a part to play in the configuration and content of your risk assessments. Where appropriate, it may be worth having a word with them to ensure you are agreed on a sensible and realistic approach to risk assessment that protects everyone’s interests, while encouraging that all-important ‘buy in’ and commitment from employees.
THINK BEYOND SAFETY
Health is sometimes the poor relation when it comes to health and safety. In the UK, we’re far better at managing direct safety issues than we are in areas like ill health and damage. Make sure that your assessment is wide enough to cover health based issues - not just things that can cause injury.
Stress, noise and vibration are all real concerns for your employees, and you should be ensuring that you cover these areas in your risk assessment. Issues around wellbeing are often addressed elsewhere, but you do have an opportunity to identify areas where staff wellbeing can be improved.
Make sure that your assessment is wide enough to cover health based issues
CONCENTRATE ON THE RESULTS
We carry out risk assessments because we want to make our businesses and workplaces safe and healthy places in which to work. Micro managing every operation can often undermine the objective. If nothing else, having to follow hundreds of procedures and wade through thousands of sheets of paper does little to reduce stress, and can even compromise understanding.
For businesses with five or more employees, record your risk assessment in writing and make sure that your assessment works in context with your overall aims – to proportionately reduce the risk of harm to those affected by your work activities. If you create documentation without outlining your objectives, then your assessments have neither context nor meaning: they’re just words and, therefore are neither suitable nor sufficient.
WE CAN HELP YOU GET YOUR RISK ASSESSMENTS RIGHT.
Our Health, Safety and Environmental Management Consultants use their far reaching expertise to get to know your business, so you can be reassured of complete compliance. Through a positive working partnership we help you maintain a robust health, safety and sustainability culture.
In addition to telephone advice and expert face to face support, you can access a wealth of online resources, including health, safety and sustainability model documents and ready-made policies.
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