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Frequently Asked Questions about Risk Assessment

Why do I need to do Risk Assessment?

There are a number of reasons why Risk Assessment is needed:

  1. It is a tool that is designed to help you think about what could cause harm to people.  It helps you ensure that the safety and health of employees, volunteers and visitors is thought about in a structured way.
  2. It is a legal requirement for many Churches and Places of Worship under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
  3. It is often a requirement of insurance agencies that risk is properly considered.  Risk Assessment is the recognised way to do this.

When should I do a Risk Assessment?

All significant hazards need to be assessed but, providing that all hazards are adequately considered and assessed, there is no time limit on when the assessment is carried out again or reviewed.  Risk Assessments do not have an expiry date, although it does pay to keep an eye on things to make sure that any changes are included.

How do I complete a Risk Assessment?

A Risk Assessment is never completed. It is not a form that has to be filled in but a way of thinking about things. By definition, an assessment is reviewed occasionally, so it is an ongoing process. 

Who should do the Risk Assessment?

Anyone that has the right knowledge, experience and skills can do the assessments.  The assessor does not have to be formally trained in Risk Assessment, but some people find this training invaluable.

For the assessment to be useful, it is often best for it to be done by someone that knows the premises, people and activities well enough.  Having said that, some assessments may require expert advice as specialist skills may be needed. 

A good Risk Assessment should involve people that know the issues, so be prepared to ask others for their input.

What types of Risk Assessment are there?

Risk Assessment is used in various ways under different legislation, but all have the same aim: thinking about how things could affect the safety and health of people and deciding what to do to prevent harm to them.  The same basic methods found in this section can be used for all assessments.

It is not uncommon to find some slightly different formats for the below assessment types:

  • Chemicals and substances (sometimes called COSHH assessments after the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations);
  • Manual handling (lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling); and
  • Fire.

Sometimes, separate assessments are also considered for new & expectant mothers, children & young people, lone workers or others that are especially 'at risk'.

There's no need for any special, separate assessments so long as the risks are properly considered.

What does a good Risk Assessment look like?

There is no right or wrong way to do a Risk Assessment, providing that it is 'suitable and sufficient'.  This means that is should identify all the significant hazards, people at risk of harm and identify what is being done to prevent harm to people, along with any further action that is needed. 

A good Risk Assessment is one that reflects the organisation so must be specific to the premises, activities and personnel.  Most Churches and Places of Worship have few significant hazards and are already low risk, so Risk Assessment should not be a major task.

If and when a Risk Assessment needs to be recorded in writing, there is no set format on how this is to be done.

I've seen scoring charts (matrices) used.  Do I need to use one?

No.  For most Churches and Places of Worship, 'quantitative' methods are not needed.  However, we do feel that some means of scoring risk is beneficial to organisations to ensure that  there is consistency in how Risk Assessment is approached  when more than one person is assessing the risk.

The use of any such systems is up to you, and you do not have to use a scoring system to comply with the law.

Is there an example from a typical church building?

We don't provide any examples as we believe that there is no such thing as a typical Risk Assessment because there is no such thing as a typical Church! 

All premises are slightly different.  Each congregation is different.  Each organisation has it's own way of doing things.

A unique assessment needs to be made in your own Church or Place of Worship.

Can I download an assessment or use one from someone else?

The purpose of Risk Assessment is not to have documents to keep in a folder to look nice.  For any assessment to be valid, it must reflect the organisation that has been assessed.  The work of someone else is not likely to match the needs of the organisation, so is of little value and will not do what it is intended to do - identify hazards and help control risk.

It isn't the presence of the documentation that matters, rather the fact that someone has thought about the hazards as they affect the organisation.

However, it can be useful to look at other's work to see how they manage and document things to get ideas about how it is done if you are new to Risk Assessment.

How much time does it take?

This depends on the size of the organisation and premises, but the idea of Risk Assessment is not to spend time on paperwork, rather it is about putting sensible and reasonable precautions in to protect people against real risk.

Those people that spend too much time on assessments are often missing the point and are aiming  to get perfect documents which are of little practical use to the organisation, or don't have the right skills to assess risk or document the findings when this is needed.  It does help to have skills in Risk Assessment (training is useful for some people) and, when recording the significant findings, word processing skills are useful.

Isn't is just about protecting us in case things go wrong?

Paperwork alone does not prevent injuries and illness.

It's not the paperwork that counts, but the actions that are done to prevent injuries and illness in a sensible and reasonable way.  Risk Assessment is not about having a document in a folder 'just in case' rather it's a tool that is used to look for problems and allow the organisation to be proactive in preventing incidents. Only then can the organisation say it's done everything that's reasonable to protect people.

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