Why risk assessments are vital

By Jason Godfrey, Safesite General Manager

When supervising or planning work at height, you are responsible for identifying and controlling risks.

Known as a risk assessment, you must think carefully about what might cause injury, or harm, to workers and visitors who may be in your care, then take reasonable steps to either eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

A risk assessment is a legal requirement, though you only have to record it if you have five or more employees. Risk assessments aren’t about trying to recreate War and Peace, but about identifying and cataloguing all the risks and finding the correct solutions to those problems and sharing your findings with those that may be effected.

Pay attention to how accidents could happen and concentrate on the risks you find, especially those that are most likely and which will cause the most harm.


What happens if I don’t do a risk assessment?

Though the example in the video above does not seem like work at height, the two grape stompers are in fact on a platform which is raised, putting it under the HSE’s definition of work at height:

“Work at height means work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you: work above ground/floor level, or could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface…”

In 1998, FOX News reporter Melissa Sander was on location at the Chateau Elan Winery in Georgia, US, to report on a grape-stomping competition. During a friendly round of stomping with an event staff member, Sander fell off the raised platform and hit the ground a few feet below.

Sander appears to have the wind knocked out of her and complains she can’t breathe, amidst obvious cries of pain. It was later revealed the reporter had suffered several fractures including broken ribs.

Though no legal action was taken against the winery, it is clear that there was room for improvement in terms of safety, and this incident could have been prevented had a full and proper risk assessment been carried out by whoever was responsible for the site at the time.

For example, A reduced height bucket could have prevented the trip while a guard-railing or barrier around the platform could have prevented Sander’s fall, offering her some way to balance whilst stomping the grapes.


The solution

Risk assessments are a vital part of preparation for any work at height, even when the chance of injury seems low, such as in the video above. A full assessment must be carried out to ensure all risks are accounted for.

Remember, to comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005, you must ensure:

● all work at height is properly planned and organised

● those involved in work at height are competent

● the risks from work at height are assessed, and 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.


There are many risk assessment templates online that you can use. As mentioned above, don’t worry if you haven’t completed the sheet at the end of your inspection, you might not always be able to detect every single issue, your focus should be on identifying what you can and producing a solution to the problem.

Do not overcomplicate the process. For many companies your work at height risks will be well known and documented with the necessary control measures easy to apply.

For more information about risk assessments, or to enquire about a full site survey, please get in touch.

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