Controlling the risks in the workplace
Employers and self-employed people have a legal obligation to identify the risks to workers and anyone else, for example members of the public, who may be affected by their work activity, and to take appropriate action to counter these risks.
Employers and self-employed people should conduct a 'risk assessment' to help them fulfil this legal obligation. Carrying out a risk assessment can be simple. Most employers carry out small risk assessments anyway, for example in checking up on the skills and experience of a new driver (i.e. assessing any risks involved in having them drive).
A systematic risk assessment could save time, save money, and save lives.
Here are the 5 steps in performing a risk assessment, and keeping it up-to-date:
- Recognize the hazards - Where might accidents happen?
- Identify who is at risk - and how might they be harmed?
- Evaluate the risks - Assess whether existing precautions are adequate or whether more are needed.
- Record your findings - Compulsory if there are more than four people in the business, and best practice in any case.
- Review the risk assessment - both periodically and if circumstances change.
The following guidance should help you perform your risk assessment in relation to Vehicles at Work. More detailed guidance is available in the HSE publication Controlling the risks in the workplace.
1. Recognize the hazards
First, identify the work activities involving vehicles, including visiting vehicles, over a reasonable period (maybe over the course of a week). The activities are likely to include:
- Arrival and departure
- Travel within the workplace
- Unloading, loading, securing loads, and sheeting, coupling, etc.
- Maintenance work on the vehicles
Employers can then identify the risks associated with these activities. Ask, "What are the possible dangers, and what is causing those dangers?" For example:
- Is there a danger of someone being hit by a moving vehicle? Why?
- Is there a danger of someone falling from a vehicle, for example while getting in or out, or loading? Why?
- Is there a danger of someone being hit by an object falling from a vehicle? Why?
- Is there a danger of a vehicle tipping over? Why?
- In looking for the hazards, areas to look at should include:
- The vehicles themselves.
- Are safe and suitable for what they are being used to do?
- Are they properly maintained?
- Do the vehicles need to be replaced with new, safer vehicles?
- The routes or roadways used by the vehicles.
- Are they safe and suitable for the type and number of vehicles using them?
- Are they properly maintained?
- Have you considered nearby obstructions, curbs or edges, etc.?
- What the drivers doing?
- Are they working safely? For example when getting into or out of vehicles, when loading or unloading, or are they observing routes, speed limits etc.? In particular look for 'short-cuts' in both routes and safety procedures, which drivers may be tempted to use.
- Are there pressures being placed on drivers/operators which might encourage them to work less safely? For example, do they have to rush to complete their work on schedule? Is there a risk of drivers becoming over-tired?
- What are other people doing?
- Are other workers, customers, members of the public etc. kept clear of workplace vehicles wherever possible?
- Having looked at the above areas and identified possible dangers to anyone in the workplace, it is a good idea to ask drivers and any other employees at the site (including contractors, and possibly visiting drivers) for their views.
2. Identifying who is at risk
For each risk that you identify, determine who might be hurt, and how.
Think about everyone in the workplace, including all employees (full-time, part-time and casual), contractors and sub-contractors, visiting drivers, customers, cleaners, visitors, members of the public, etc.
3. Evaluating the risks
For each risk, and bearing in mind who is at risk, consider the chances that an accident will happen and how serious it might be, and assess whether existing precautions are enough or whether more are needed.
In effect you should ask "Has anything been done to reduce this risk, and is it enough?"
- In the first place, if you have not complied with any legal duties, then clearly more precautions are needed.
- Even if you have already done something to reduce a particular risk, you will still need to ask whether the remaining risk is acceptably low (think about the likely consequences of an accident), or whether you could reasonably be expected to do more to reduce the risks.
- For example, you might decide that in addition to imposing speed limits on vehicle routes, road humps or similar speed-reducing measures are needed to ensure that vehicles cannot drive too fast.
If you conclude that something more needs to be done, it is recommended that you follow this procedure:
- Try to eliminate the risk altogether (for example, by restricting vehicle movements to certain parts of the workplace).
- Risks that cannot be eliminated should be reduced wherever possible.
Consider the following in order as safety precautions:
- Where possible, change the layout of the workplace and use vehicles with the appropriate safety features to ensure safety (for example, have separate pedestrian routes, use road humps, or vehicles with speed limiters).
- Set up safe systems of working (for example, enforce speed limits).
- Employees should be trained and regularly reminded to take care, and to use safety equipment.
4. Record your findings
If you have five or more people in your organisation you must record what you find when you do a risk assessment.
If you have fewer than five employees you are not required to record anything, but you may find it useful to do so anyway.
- Recording in writing the significant risks and how you intend to reduce them.
- In addition, it is useful to prioritise your intended actions and specify a deadline.
You should also inform your employees, especially any safety representatives, about what you find.
5. Review the risk assessment
You should review your risk assessment regularly, even if you think nothing much has changed.
Establish a timetable. Think about:
- Whether things change quickly in your industry or organisation.
- How you might go about interim or full reviews
- How often they should be conducted, ways to make sure they happen when they are due.
Sooner or later you are likely to introduce new vehicles, or change the traffic routes, or something else will change about the way you use vehicles. This could well lead to new risks. The risk assessment should always be kept up-to-date with working practices and equipment, regardless of any reviews that may be due 'soon'.