Martin Bastone suggests that a risk assessment is not just red tape designed to trip you up.
Can you prove that your business is a safer environment than a construction site? If the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or Local Authority Environmental Health Officer (EHO) were to visit today, could you produce your safety policies, risk assessments and safe systems of work to cover every task you carry out? Could you at least demonstrate that you are working on these?
Many of the safety issues faced by the arts world (and I include theatres, museums, galleries and the associated activities in this group) have their counterpart in the construction industry. Examples include working at heights, the use of hazardous substances, putting up internal structures and electrical works. Much of this work will in fact be carried out by building contractors who will, of course, have been fully assessed by your contracts department using a system agreed with your safety advisor or consultant. If so, that still leaves the day-to-day activities that take place after the contractors have gone home. Do you have trained staff to work on lighting racks, or to review the risks presented by substances to be used by the public ? such as the types of paint or dyes used by school children taking part in weekend activities?
Can you feel the breath of the ambulance chasers on your back as you read this? The best antidote to the ambulance chaser is to have reliable procedures in place, which include a well thought out risk-assessment system. There are a vast number of systems available off the shelf. Some of these are sufficiently flexible to cover a range of businesses but you need to be sure to get the one most appropriate for your business. There are simple systems such as the free ?Five steps to risk assessment? from the HSE website. If you are new to safety issues, this site also contains a mass of other useful material on this and other safety subjects. Alternatively, you could pay a consultant to carry out your assessments for you, but make sure you carry out adequate background checks before signing on the line. Remember, you can delegate the task, but not the responsibility!
The essential points of a simple risk assessment are as follows:
- Identify the hazards
- Consider if these represent a risk to anyone, in any way
- Decide the level of risk and decide if your existing precautions are adequate
- Record the essential information from the above
- Review and revise as work changes significantly (or at least once a year)
- Check that your assessment is still valid.
Fine, so now you have your risk assessment! Don?t just file it. You will need to use it if you identified at point 3 above that those existing precautions are not adequate. Also, one of those precautions is that staff involved with the task under the risk assessment should be made aware of it and have the necessary training and equipment to carry out their work safely. By then adding the information gathered through the risk assessment, into a method statement, you will have produced a Safe System of Work (SSW). Distributed to staff and covering all significant risks, the arts environment should be a safer place.
Martin Bastone is Senior Safety Advisor at the Victoria & Albert Museum. t: 020 7942 2300; e: email@example.com
Martin Bastone is speaking at the Europe Talks Tickets 2005 Conference at Novotel London West next month. Focusing on the opportunities presented by globalisation and advanced technologies, the conference themes range from training and staff motivation to customer relationship management and venue resource management. w: http://www.ett.eu.com