Safety Statement and Risk Assessment
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Frequently Asked Questions
(click on headings below to go directly to the answer)
- What is a Safety Statement?
- What is a Risk Assessment?
- Why is it important to carry out a Risk Assessment and prepare a Safety Statement?
- What does the law require regarding Risk Assessments and Safety Statements?
- What should be covered in a Safety Statement?
- Who needs to read the Risk Assessments and Safety Statement?
- How should the Safety Statement be reviewed?
- How often should the Safety Statement be reviewed?
- What should the employer do after the Safety Statement has been reviewed?
- Is anyone exempt from carrying out a Risk Assessment and/or preparing a Safety Statement?
- Do I need to give a copy of the Safety Statement to every employee?
What is a Safety Statement?
Section 20 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires that an organisation produce a written programme to safeguard:
- the safety and health of employees while they work
- the safety and health of other people who might be at the workplace, including customers, visitors and members of the public
The Safety Statement represents a commitment to their safety and health. It should state how the employer will ensure their safety and health and state the resources necessary to maintain and review safety and health laws and standards. The Safety Statement should influence all work activities, including
- the selection of competent people, equipment and materials
- the way work is done
- how goods and services are designed and provided
It is essential to write down the Safety Statement and put in place the arrangements needed to implement and monitor it. The Safety Statement must be made available to staff, and anyone else, showing that hazards have been identified and the risks assessed and eliminated or controlled.
What is a Risk Assessment?
Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires that employers and those who control workplaces to any extent must identify the hazards in the workplaces under their control and assess the risks to safety and health at work presented by these hazards.
Employers must examine and write down these workplace risks and what to do about them. Ultimately, assessing risk means that anything in the workplace that could cause harm to your employees, other employees and other people (including customers, visitors and members of the public) must be carefully examined. This allows you to estimate the magnitude of risk and decide whether the risk is acceptable or whether more precautions need to be taken to prevent harm.
Employers are required to implement any improvements considered necessary by the risk assessment. The aim is to ensure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill.
The results of any Risk Assessments should be written into the Safety Statement.
Why is it important to carry out a Risk Assessment and prepare a Safety Statement?
The main aim is to make sure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill. Accidents and ill health can ruin lives, and can also affect business if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase, or if you have to go to court. Therefore, carrying out Risk Assessments, preparing and implementing a Safety Statement and keeping both up to date will not in themselves prevent accidents and ill health but they will play a crucial part in reducing their likelihood.
Employers, managers and supervisors should all ensure that workplace practices reflect the Risk Assessments and Safety Statement. Behaviour, the way in which everyone works, must reflect the safe working practices laid down in these documents. Supervisory checks and audits should be carried out to determine how well the aims set down are being achieved. Corrective action should be taken when required. Additionally, if a workplace is provided for use by others, the Safety Statement must also set out the safe work practices that are relevant to them.
Hence, it is important to carry out a Risk Assessment and prepare a Safety Statement for:
1. Financial reasons:
There is considerable evidence, borne out by companies’ practical experiences, that effective safety and health management in the workplace contributes to business success. Accidents and ill-health inflict significant costs, often hidden and underestimated.
2. Legal reasons:
Carrying out a Risk Assessment, preparing a Safety Statement and implementing what you have written down are not only central to any safety and health management system, they are required by law. Health and Safety Authority inspectors visiting workplaces will want to know how employers are managing safety and health. If they investigate an accident, they will scrutinise the Risk Assessment and Safety Statement, and the procedures and work practices in use. It should be ensured that these stand up to examination. If the inspector finds that one of these is inadequate, they can ask the employer to revise it. Employers can be prosecuted if they do not have a Safety Statement.
3. Moral and ethical reasons:
The process of carrying out a Risk Assessment, preparing a Safety Statement and implementing what you have written down will help employers prevent injuries and ill-health at work. Employers are ethically bound to do all they can to ensure that their employees do not suffer illness, a serious accident or death.
What does the law require regarding Risk Assessments and Safety Statements?
Every employer is required to manage safety and health at work so as to prevent accidents and ill-health. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires employers to:
- identify the hazards
- carry out a Risk Assessment
- prepare a written Safety Statement
This process has a practical purpose. It will help employers and other duty holders to manage employees’ safety and health, and get the balance right between the size of any safety and health problems and what has to be done about them. This is because the system must be risk-based. The required safety measures must be proportionate to the real risks involved and must be adequate to eliminate, control or minimise the risk of injury. The system must involve consultation between the employer and the employees, who are required by law to cooperate with the employer in the safety-management process.
What should be covered in a Safety Statement?
The areas that should be covered by the Safety Statement are specific and are set out in Section 20 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. The Statement should be based on the identification of the hazards and the Risk Assessments carried out under Section 19. It must:
- specify how the safety and health of all employees will be secured and managed
- specify the hazards identified and risks assessed
- give details of how the employer is going to manage their safety and health responsibilities, including a commitment to comply with legal obligations, the protective and preventive measures taken, the resources provided for safety and health at the workplace and the arrangements used to fulfil these responsibilities
- include the plans and procedures to be used in the event of an emergency or serious danger
- specify the duties of employees, including the co-operation required from them on safety and health matters
- include the names and job titles of people appointed to be responsible for safety and health or for performing the tasks set out in the statement
- contain the arrangements made for appointing safety representatives, and for consulting with and the participation by employees on safety and health matters, including the names of the safety representatives and the members of the safety committee, if appointed
- be written in a form, manner and language that will be understood by all
- include a review mechanism
- have regard to the relevant safety and health legislation
The Safety Statement can refer to specific procedures contained in other documents.
These documents might include:
- Health and Safety Authority Publications on Safety Statements and Risk Assessments for specific work sectors.
- Health and Safety Authority produced Codes of Practice, Guidance and Information Sheets where available.
- Manufacturer’s instructions for work equipment and machines
- Company operating instructions and procedures
These may contain lists of the hazards and precautions relevant to your organisation. It is up to the employer whether to combine all the documents or keep them separately. However, the employer must still ensure that employees are made aware of the risks in their work and the precautions which are necessary.
Who needs to read the Risk Assessments and Safety Statement?
The employer must ensure that the contents of the Safety Statement, which includes the Risk Assessments, is brought to the attention of all employees and others at the workplace who may be exposed to any risks covered by the Safety Statement. In particular, all new employees must be made aware of the Safety Statement when they start work. The Statement must be in a form and language that they all understand.
Other people may be exposed to a specific risk dealt with in the Safety Statement and the Statement should be brought to their attention. These people could include:
- outside contractors who do cleaning, maintenance or building work
- temporary workers
- delivery people who stack their goods in the premises and come in contact with activities there
- self-employed people who provide a service for the employer
Where specific tasks are carried out, which pose a serious risk to safety and health, the relevant contents of the Safety Statement must be brought to the attention of those affected, setting out the hazards identified, the Risk Assessments and the safety and health measures that must be taken.
How should the Safety Statement be reviewed?
In reviewing the Safety Statement, employers should consider at least the following:
- Were the aims in the Safety Statement relevant and appropriate?
- Did it identify the significant hazards, assess their risks and set out the necessary preventive and protective safety measures?
- Were the safety and health measures, which were identified, implemented in practice? Was the planned progress achieved?
- Were new work practices or processes introduced since the last review and if so were they risk-assessed?
- Did you put in place the measures necessary to comply with the relevant statutory provisions (e.g. on safety and health management, safety consultation and training, etc.)?
- Did you comply fully with safety and health performance standards (including legislation and approved Codes of Practice)?
- Are there areas where standards are absent or inadequate?
- Have you analysed your data to find out the immediate and underlying causes of any injuries, illness or incidents? Have you identified any trends and common features?
- What new safety and health measures were applied following any reportable accidents or other incidents, or following any enforcement measures relating to your workplace?
- Were adequate financial, physical, human and organisational resources committed to safety and health?
- What improvements in safety and health performance need to be made?
As part of the review, employers will find it helpful to refer to any records which have been kept, such as accident/incident reports, health-surveillance results, training records, inspection and audit reports, maintenance logs, or atmospheric monitoring figures. Employers must also consult safety representatives and others who may be affected by the review.
How often should the Safety Statement be reviewed?
Implementing the Safety Statement should be an integral part of everyday operations and so it must be relevant at all times. Therefore, it should be revised periodically, at least once a year, and whenever significant changes take place, or when Risk Assessments are carried out and improvements are made that have an impact on safety and health. Such changes may include changes in the way work is being carried out, the introduction of new work activities, changes in the organisational structure due to redundancies and to available man power etc.
What should the employer do after the Safety Statement has been reviewed?
Employers should bring any changes made to the attention of the safety representatives, employees and any other persons who may be affected by the new measures set out in the Safety Statement. They must be informed about the new findings and of any changes in the required safety and health precautions. Make sure all modifications or improvements required by the new Risk Assessments and Safety Statement review are implemented as soon as possible.
Is anyone exempt from carrying out a Risk Assessment and/or preparing a Safety Statement?
A Risk Assessment must always be prepared for that place of work. However, if 3 or fewer people are employed and a Code of Practice relating to Safety Statements, prepared by the Health and Safety Authority, exists for a sector or work activity, then compliance with that code is sufficient. See section 20(8) of the 2005 Act. Codes of Practice have been prepared for several sectors including Construction, Agriculture and Fishing.
Do I need to give a copy of the Safety Statement to every employee?
The 2005 Act specifies the information that must be given to employees. The Safety Statement must be accessible to all employees and the sections of the Safety Statement relevant to the employees must be brought to their attention, with particular regard to the specific hazards, risks and prevention measures concerning their particular job. The Safety Statement must be brought to the attention of all employees at least annually.