Dynamic risk assessment

Most organisations understand what risk assessment is, but what is dynamic risk assessment – really?

As a senior fire officer I was involved in the investigation of serious fatalities – including fire fighters. These investigations gave rise to improvement notices issued to the fire service by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The aim was to find a means of preventing reoccurrences of this kind.

The outcomes focused on realistic training and appropriate risk assessments. It was apparent that, although everyone was very well trained and followed their training, the issue that caused the fatalities was that, whereas some of the people blindly followed ‘the book’, others undertook a risk assessment of the circumstances ‘on the hoof’.

Unfortunately, those fire fighters following what they thought were the correct procedures were amongst the fatalities.

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to forecast an unexpected set of circumstances and where emergency services, oil and gas, NHS social workers, military are concerned, it is often impossible to predict the situation.

All organisations must carry out generic risk assessments where you look at the existing situation and the risks that are involved in the day to day operation, where daily activities are repeated.
Then there are specific risk assessments. These relate to individuals, environments and specific activities. For instance, a fit and healthy member of staff with appropriate training climbing a ladder.

Both these types of risk assessments can – and should – be documented. However, in a situation where things are changing rapidly – and ambiguously – there is no time to carry out a documented risk assessment. The individuals involved need to be able to carry out a risk assessment at any time.

This is called dynamic risk assessment. Every member of the team in organisations where they regularly have to deal with high risk, rapidly changing situations needs to know how to do this. You don’t know who will be available when this is needed, so it’s no good training one or two people. What happens when they’re on holiday or at lunch or off sick?