Risk Assessment: Being wise before the event

We are all aware that risk assessment is a legal requirement, and most organisations have some form of risk assessment process in place. Sometimes this is only in place because risk assessment is a legal requirement. Fortunately, there are some organisations that embrace the risk assessment process and understand it can protect the health and the safety of their workers (as well as others).

There are also some businesses that “get it wrong”. These tend to be, organisations who:

  • think of risk assessments purely as a paperwork exercise (and so do not involve the workforce),
  • don’t see the value of risk assessments,
  • don’t make time for risk assessments,
  • consider risk assessments as a waste of time,
  • don’t consider the risks of one-off jobs,
  • etc.

Consider this simple thought experiment:

The task is to lift a heavy object and move it. The tools to hand include a telehandler. What might be included in your risk assessment?

  • is the telehandler suitable for the task?
  • is its lifting capacity sufficient for the task?
  • is the driver trained?
  • have we planned the lifting operation?
  • what steps do we need to put in place to keep people away from the lifting area?

This is not a definitive list but it starts the process and can be built on.

Recent Prosecution – similar to the thought experiment

Alan Little Ltd of Lurgan (Northern Ireland) pleaded guilty after employee JP suffered fatal injuries during an unloading operation. JP died after he was struck by a palletised load that fell from the forks of a telescopic handler during the lifting operation. The driver of the lorry also suffered minor injuries when he was impacted by the load as it fell.

The (hired) telescopic handler was being operated by an untrained member of staff. The palletised load weighed over two tonnes and consisted of a robot and an electrical control box. Neither were secured to the pallet and during the lifting operation to remove the pallet from the lorry, the robot became unstable and toppled over, striking JP as it fell.

HSENI Inspector Kyle Carrick said:

Our thoughts are with the Peden family. Jonathan’s tragic death could have been avoided if his employer had properly considered the risks associated with this unloading activity. Careful consideration of the risks is vital to ensure practical and often simple measures are put in place to prevent such incidents from occurring.

Load stability and security are important factors to consider, as is operator training, which is a legal requirement for anyone operating lift trucks, including telescopic handlers. Pedestrians and other people who are not directly involved in loading or unloading operations should always be kept clear of dangerous lifting activities.

Alan Little Ltd was prosecuted for breaching Article 4(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 and fined £45,000. They were fined a further £5,000for breaching Article 5(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978.

Risk Assessment: Being wise before the event

A little thought and planning would have created a very different outcome. It is all well and good to be wise after the event, but it is possible to be wise before the event.