Risk Assessment Taken to Its Extreme

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Risk Assessment Taken to Its Extreme


Byline: Russell Lawson

ONE of our members was shocked earlier this year to find out that his company's health and safety provision was not adequate and that bringing it into line would cost pounds 8,000.

But why?

Earlier this year this owner of a small engineering company was given 24 hours' notice that his health and safety records were not up to scratch - and that his firm's annual insurance policy could not be renewed. Without it, his firm could not function.

At the heart of this story is the new and almost-obsessive health and safety culture that has developed in recent years, whereby company bosses are asked to dream up theoretical situations where anything that could go wrong would go wrong.

This includes issues such as the somewhat-bizarre state of affairs where a pencil sharpener becomes a pretty dangerous piece of kit in the (theoretically) wrong pair of hands.

And while many are happy enough to blame this state of affairs on the Health and Safety Executive, it appears there are many other factors at work.

This particular firm had for years been using the same old health and safety document; it was about four pages in length and had a two-line or three-line assessment of each piece of equipment used in his business.

It had been designed based on the recommendations of the Health and Safety Executive but now, it seemed, the document was no longer valid. The insurance company insisted the firm call in a team of health and safety consultants to compile a new document. This seemed ridiculous enough; the pounds 8,000 bill made matters worse.

The new document was drafted and the firm was astonished to see that it contained several hundred pages. Inside were risk assessments on 150 items of equipment, some as mundane as fax machines - and each assessment was up to three pages long. …

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