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Communicating risk assessments to employees

Discuss management systems in here, including - HS(G)65; OHSAS 18001; ISO 14001; ISO 9001; ISO 20000; ISO 27001.

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NRD
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Communicating risk assessments to employees

Post by NRD »

Hi everyone. I am new here so I hope this is the right place to post this!

I am looking for some advice on managing risk assessments in my workplace. I am assistant to the H&S manager for an industrial manufacturing company with 100+ employees.

At the moment, when a new employee starts at our company, we are printing copies of every risk assessment we have that is relevant to the work they will be doing and asking them to read and sign every one before they start. This may amount to 50+ assessments per employee and produces a lot of paperwork. When risk assessments are reviewed and the content of the assessment changes, we were originally going to reissue the assessment to all employees and get them to sign for it again, however this has proved impossible to manage.

Is getting a signature is necessary at all? I noticed in the HSE guidance it is stated that the results of risk assessments must be communicated to employees – so does this mean that employees do not strictly need to see/sign the assessment itself? For example, would simply having all risk assessments available to read if desired be acceptable, or communicating annual updates to risk assessments via a newsletter or something similar?

The H&S manager believes that we need to have signatures from everybody to prove they understand the content of the assessments, but I am not so sure. I am not convinced that we should be using risk assessments as training documents in this way and I think that the signatures have little worth.

I do hope somebody can shed a little light on the subject as we are looking to be compliant with HSE guidance in the most efficient way that we can manage! I would be very interested in knowing how risk assessments are managed at similar companies.
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bernicarey
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Re: Communicating risk assessments to employees

Post by bernicarey »

Hi NRD, welcome...

Short answer about whether people need to sign a copy of the Risk Assessment is NO; your H&S manager is 'Ass Covering', but it will do them no good because if something happened, and it went to Court, a good lawyer would rip their concept of
signatures from everybody to prove they understand the content of the assessments
to shreds.

It would go along the lines of...
'Mr Smith, I believe you have staff sign the Risk Assessment to prove they have read and understood it, is that correct?
'Yes'
I have here a signed copy of Risk Assessment Number 47, about the process for doing (whatever); can you tell me what the 14 individual control measures are?
'Err, not without reading it to double check it'
'But you signed it 11 months ago to say you understood it. Surely you can remember it all; isn't that the purpose of signing it...?'
'Err...Ummm Errr'
'Come on Mr Smith, your entire management strategy is based on employees reading and signing 50 of these every year, are you telling me you cannot remember what is in number 47?'
'Errr... no, I can't'
'So it's a pointless activity isn't it, having people sign for have read 50 documents, some of which are 10 pages long. Do you agree Mr Smith?'
.
.
'No further questions m'Laud...'

Your company has simply created a bureaucratic mountain of impediment to sensible safe working.

As you stated, the HSE position, and as required by the legislation, is that the RA is conducted in order for the Employer to understand what measures they need to take to keep their employees safe. The Employer must then make appropriate arrangements to ensure the measures are taken.
So the employee doesn't need to read and understand the RA; they need to be told what they must do to work safety.
If that means explicit instructions to 'Never Eat Yellow Snow' that's what the employees need to be told, not all the reasoning behind it; whether its the neighbours dog piddling on the lawn or the overflow of yellow dye from the factory is in the main, irrelevant to the worker.

That's a really basic and light-hearted stance on a very serious problem.

The simple fact is that creating reams of paperwork does the opposite of what is required.
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NRD
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Re: Communicating risk assessments to employees

Post by NRD »

Hi there bernicarey,

Thanks for your thorough response! This was my understanding of HSE's guidance and yes, I do think we are making a mountain of work for ourselves with little benefit. I will try to relay this to my manager.
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Re: Communicating risk assessments to employees

Post by Blackstone »

Hi NRD,

So a new employee starts and reads 50 RA's for a processes he may not understand. the RA's are probably not going to make much sense and like Berni said, there is no chance they are going to remember 99% of what is in the RA.
I prefer the approach the the employee learns by doing while being shadowed by a more experienced person and reviews RA's/procedures as they go. Knowledge can then be checked and reviewed at 3/6 month review or when required.

I have run the system in the past that RA's are available in the area, on the machine, etc. They are updated in these locations, then during regular dept meetings, safety briefs, etc, changes are communicated to the employees so that the employee know what is expected of them in relation to the changes. Meeting may cover a bunch of things, production and company updates, safety, personnel. The staff then sign that they were present in the meeting.
They may already be aware of the changes but the meeting confirms to all.

Regards
Glen
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Re: Communicating risk assessments to employees

Post by Jack Kane »

I'm a firm believer in people and giving them a fighting chance at doing things right. The law requires us to communicate the controls identified in our risk assessments, not the assessments themselves. Placing a reliance on having signatures as acceptance of understanding the risk assessments is pointless as discussed above; but, it is a good idea to have signatures as a record of learning a safe system of work. For example:

Back to basics of information, instruction, training and supervision...

Information - you conduct a risk assessment, gather the information to identify the controls to do the job safely and record them (5 or more employees)

Instruction - give the employee instructions for those controls to be effective when doing the job

Training - provide training to make sure the employee understands the hazards, risks and controls. The training needs to be effective and as with Glen, I also find active learning to be effective

Supervision - there to make sure all of that works just nicely

If an employer has a well thought out safe system of work programme where risk assessments are reviewed periodically, audits are conducted, inspections, training reviewed periodically with testing competence if necessary, a variety of training methods used like toolbox talks, on the job, classroom, virtual etc., with good reporting systems and supervisors / managers playing their part...then a signature at times is good to show that you turned up, participated and have all the tools to do the job safely.

The employee will still be able to make choices. Gaps in the management systems will still exist. Fallible decisions in management will still happen.

The best we can do is minimise the risks as best we can and learn at every chance we get.

What's a great way to demonstrate a poor management decision? Tell them to sign 50+ risk assessments to say they understand them.

It's old school thinking unfortunately but it can be turned around. Herein lies your journey to a positive health and safety culture do_a_penfold
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