The Importance of Risk Assessments in Construction

For those who are called upon to supervise or plan work at height, the responsibility to identify and control risks is a very serious issue.  While a risk assessment is always a legal requirement, you only need to record the risk assessment if you have five or more employees, though we would recommend always recording a risk assessment as a matter of best practice.  During a risk assessment you need to think carefully about what might cause injury or harm to workers and visitors and then take reasonable steps to either eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level, which means identifying and cataloguing all risks and finding the correct solutions to those problems and sharing your findings with those who may be affected.

When it comes to work at height, this is defined as “work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury”.  Work at height incudes any work above ground/floor level or in a place where a worker could fall from an edge, through an opening or through a fragile surface.  The construction industry regularly requires workers to work at height so the risks and dangers need to be considered before planning the work in order to make sure it is as risk-free as possible.

Risk assessments are a vital part of the preparation necessary for any work at height, even when the chance of an injury seems low.  A full risk assessment must be carried out to ensure that all risks are accounted for.  To comply with Work at Height Regulations 2005, you must make sure that:

·         All work at height is properly planned and organised

·         Those involved in work at height are competent to do so

·         The risks from work at height are assessed, and the appropriate work equipment is selected and used

·         The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed

·         The equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained on a regular basis.

Something useful to consider when carrying out a risk assessment is to pay attention to how accidents could happen and concentrate on any risks you find present, especially those which are most likely to occur and which will cause the most harm or injury.  However, don’t over complicate the process as, in many companies, the work at height risks will already be known and documented which means that any necessary control measures will be easy to apply. 

There are plenty of examples of risk assessment templates available online, often to download and use free of charge.  When carrying out the risk assessment, don’t worry if you haven’t completed the sheet at the end of the inspection as it may not always be possible to detect and log every single issue.  Your focus should be on identifying and documenting the risks you can and producing solutions to the problems they present.