Q40. What are safety plans?

Although there are different types of plan, a safety plan can be defined as: "a documented plan that outlines how an organisation will implement health and safety requirements specified in law or in a contract".

Some organisations operate in industries where there is a requirement to generate safety plans that outline how they manage their operations in a safe manner and how they comply with relevant legislation in their sector - for example, in the UK offshore sector, offshore installations are required by law to have a Safety Case and, in Ireland, all businesses must have a Safety Statement.[1]

Where there is no legal requirement, a client may require safety plans from their contractors as a contractual requirement, usually based on industry best practice as recognised by the relevant industry representative organisation.[2]

Even where there is not an explicit legislative or contractual requirement, safety plans can be a useful tool for many businesses to provide concise and relevant occupational safety and health (OSH) information about projects and work locations to employees, clients and contractors. Safety plans do not have to meet any particular format or content (unless there is a legal or contractual requirement), so you have flexibility in developing your own plan specific and meaningful to your organisation.

Outside of the legal and contractual context, project-based safety plans can provide a focal point to address OSH issues in operational and production projects. Their content may include:

• Project overview.

• Mobilisation and demo issues.

• Training and competency requirements.

• Project risk assessments and method statements.

• Timelines and schedules.

• Standards and specifications.

• Logistics.

• Journey management.

Further, for organisations with multiple work sites, location-specific safety plans can provide information on:

• Facility or plant layout.

• Safety inductions.

• Emergency equipment and system locations.

• Emergency response procedures.

• Welfare facilities.

• Waste management facilities.

• OSH focal points.

Q41. What is risk assessment?

Risk assessment can be used to mean:

• A particular method or process.

• A general action that can be carried out using any one of a range of risk assessment methodologies (such as HAZID[3] and SJA[4]) .

In QUICK WIN SAFETY MANAGEMENT, we use the term to mean a specific process or method that follows the basic five-step process outlined below.

One of the most misunderstood elements of safety management is the requirement to carry out risk assessments in the workplace (this is a requirement across most national occupational safety and health legislation). The common perception amongst many business people is that assessing risk is a complex process; however, this is not the case. The risk assessment principle is so basic that we all make multiple risk-based decisions on a daily basis, probably without appreciating what is we are doing (if you have crossed a busy road or driven a car, then you are already familiar with the basic risk assessment process). Although there are a number of different methodologies in use (often specialised and tailored to be industry-specific or work activity-specific), for most SMEs, the basic risk assessment process outlined below is more than adequate for managing day-to-day risk.

The five steps in the process are:

• Identify the hazards.

• Decide who may be harmed and how.

• Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.

• Write down your findings.

• Review and update your assessments.

Identify the hazards

Walk around your workplace to identify hazards that could cause an accident. Ask your employees and safety representatives for their opinions, too.

Decide who may be harmed

Identify individuals or groups who could be harmed. For example, will the general public be affected? Or lone workers, young employees, contractors, foreign workers? Do you share a premises? This will help to target controls suitable for the groups identified.

Evaluate the risks and decide on controls

In general terms, employers have to do what is 'reasonably practicable' to manage risk; that is, to put in place the necessary protective and preventive measures (after identifying the hazards and assessing the risks) but not any further measures that are grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Consider the following steps (or combinations of these) when evaluating the risks in what is known as a 'hierarchy of control' but always start at the top:

• Eliminate the risk.

• Control the risk at source, through the use of engineering controls or organisational measures.

• Minimise the risk by the design of safe work systems, which include administrative control measures.

• Where residual risks cannot be controlled by collective measures, the employer should provide for appropriate personal protective equipment, including clothing, at no cost, and should implement measures to ensure its use and maintenance.

Involve the work force in this process as their buy-in will improve the effectiveness of agreed controls.

Write down your findings

Write down the results of your assessments. Ensure that your employees are aware of the issues raised and the relevant controls. Indicate what hazards were identified, who was affected, what controls were put in place and note that the work-force were involved in the process.

Review and update your assessments

Ensure your assessments remain current and, when changes and improvements are made in your place of work, that the risk assessments are reviewed and updated as appropriate. For example, if a new guard is fitted to a machine, update the appropriate risk assessment that it has been done, when and by whom.

  • [1] Required under the UK Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations, 2005
  • [2] For example, the contractual requirement for a health and safety plan to be provided by contractors in the onshore and offshore geophysical exploration industry as outlined in OGP-HSE Guidelines for Working Together in a Contract Environment – Report No. 6.64/291, 1999, p.9
  • [3] Hazard Identification: a multi-disciplinary team-based hazard analysis technique used across many industry sectors to identify and control significant hazards that can occur within a system (such as an oil pipeline, process pipework, etc) usually at the design or planning stage.
  • [4] Safe Job Analysis: a risk assessment technique that details specific steps in an activity, and lists the hazards and required controls at each step of the activity. Also known as Job Safety Analysis (JSA).
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