Health and safety: risk management

Health and Safety thumb
  • by Dr Tony Boyle
  • Price £57
  • Softback, 556 pages
  • ISBN 978 0 901357 41 0

The assessment and management of risk is a challenging part of today's dynamic business world. Widely recognised as the most readable text on the subject, Health and safety: risk management is designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to meet that challenge.

The revised third edition of this essential text has been updated to reflect changes in management system guidance, ISO 9004 (Quality) and BS 18004 (Health and Safety), and the NEBOSH Diploma syllabus.

"An excellent publication in content, design and presentation, eminently user-friendly throughout, easily assimilated and an engrossing read."

RoSPA Occupational Safety and Health Journal

"Probably the most readable thing you can buy covering these particular subject areas."

Health and Safety at Work


Hierarchies of risk control measures

In any given set of circumstances, some risk control measures will be 'better' than others and it is obviously preferable to use the 'best' option. However, there are various different criteria which can be used to define 'best', including:

The number of people protected by the risk control measure. In general, it is better to use a risk control measure which will protect everyone who could be exposed to the hazard, rather than relying on individuals to provide their own protection. For example, it is better to put a soundproof enclosure around a noisy machine than to expect everyone who might be exposed to the machine's noise to wear hearing protection.

The extent to which the continuing effectiveness of the risk control measure relies on human behaviour. In general, it is preferable to have risk control measures which, apart from any necessary maintenance, operate without human intervention. When a risk control measure relies on the actions of people, it is inevitable that on some occasions it will not be used, either deliberately or inadvertently.

The extent to which the risk control measure requires testing, maintenance, cleaning, replacement and so on. All of these required activities rely on human intervention and can, therefore, fail. This reduces the likelihood that the risk control measure will continue to be effective.

The cost of the risk control measure. Ideally, the cost should be calculated over the whole of the time for which risk control is required, since some risk control measures have a low installation cost but are expensive to maintain, while others have higher installation costs but are cheaper to maintain. This aspect of risk control measures is dealt with in more detail later in this chapter.

And, last but not least, the extent to which the risk control measure reduces the risk. Ideally a risk control measure, or combination of measures, will reduce the risk to near zero, but this may not be achievable in practice.

When deciding on the 'best' risk control measures, we need to arrive at a compromise between all the demands listed above, since they are often in competition. However, a critical issue for a measure's long-term effectiveness is the extent to which it relies on human beings continuing to carry out particular activities. For this reason, a number of risk control hierarchies have been developed which are based on this criterion. Six of these hierarchies are described next.