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A Means to an End - doing things right is good management

Happy New Year and welcome to my first blog of 2016.

On the journey back from one of our recent roadshows on the new health and safety system strategy, I took the opportunity to catch up on one of the latest copies of an Occupational Safety and Health magazine which I read regularly.

On the Q&A page the question posed was:
How often should I revisit the risk assessment for one of my employees who is pregnant?

The answer was interesting…
"Employers have a legal duty to check the risk assessment for any employee and updates where necessary when there have been any significant changes. For employees who are pregnant you will need to take account risks there may be at different stages of the pregnancy and so you should regularly monitor and review the assessment. It is not possible to say how often this should take place as circumstances will differ greatly.

The answer went on to identify all the things which will need to be considered – risks to the employee and the unborn child, working processes and conditions, medical advice and so on.

I agree wholeheartedly with the bit about needing to consider all of the things listed above, but I struggle with the ‘revisiting’ bit of the question. This seems to me to lie at the heart of why so many people continue to tell me that risk assessment is burdensome when it really doesn’t need to be.

It also struck a chord with the debates we’ve been having at the system strategy roadshows, about the need to identify who and what causes people to take this rigid, rules based and often over burdensome approach to health and safety more generally.

Risk assessment is part of a process not an end in itself. The idea is that you assess the risks and do what you can to control them. That means you put measures in place to control the risk. Why then do you need to revisit the risk assessment at all unless something changes that you hadn’t considered at the time of doing the assessment? My answer would have been this.

"If you do the risk assessment properly in the first place taking account of all of the important factors, including risks to an employee and their unborn child at various stages during the pregnancy, working processes and conditions and any specific medical advice and then go on to put proper and proportionate risk control measures in place, you will not need to revisit the risk assessment UNLESS there are any significant changes in working conditions or the health and well-being of your employee."
Regular chats with the pregnant employee to encourage them to tell you if there are any problems and to check that all is well will identify if anything has changed and needs to be reconsidered. However, this isn’t about compliance with health and safety– it’s simply what a good manager should and could do to show care and concern for their employee.

This case also reminded me of the misperception about needing to do a new and unique risk assessment every time a young person is taken on for work experience/temporary employment. If an employer has done a risk assessment for the job taking account of any special requirements/measures/controls required for new, young or inexperienced employees, the assessment is done and doesn’t need to be done again unless something changes.

Both of these examples are about good management practices not doing things many times over to tick a box.

Also, if you haven’t already join in the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In and let people know what you would do differently to #HelpGBWorkWell