There are many benefits to using risk assessment software within your organisation. Most of the benefits are well known, and advertised on all the software vendors websites. Most of these benefits are aimed at health and safety managers and other professionals in the field.
But there are other benefits to risk assessment software that are rarely mentioned, but which are important to regular health and safety software users.
Larger companies will ofter run some sort of health and safety portal / management system, but what about the benefits for the smaller companies? Those who don’t employ their own H&S managers, but still have to write risk assessments regularly.
Benefit 1 : Legal compliance
Risk assessment is a legal requirement. All employers have to carry out risk assessment for the work they do, but not all of them have to write it down. It only becomes a legal requirement to record your risk assessments if you have 5 or more employees (including labour only sub-contractors).
On the up side, the HSE do provide template risk assessments for a few different activities on their website. These are MS Word templates that you can download and modify to suit your specific needs.
However, in order for a risk assessment to be legally compliant, it has the be “suitable and sufficient” (as in it identifies all the people that may be harmed, all the hazards, and put in place adequate controls), and it has to be recorded in a recognised way.
While the HSE provides a starting point, it still takes some work to get your risk assessments suitable and sufficient.
Risk assessment software has the advantage that the system will often come with a library of template risk assessment for various tasks. It will also some with a set of pre-defined hazards and controls that are widely recognised through the industry.
The benefits of using these templates is that risk assessments can be created in less time, and you can have a higher confidence that they are suitable and sufficient, and standardised to your industry.
Benefit 2 : Accepted by clients and others
There are some industries, construction for example, where you will have to write risk assessments not just for your own use, but also to send to clients before you can work on their sites.
Often, in our experience, this will be a last-minute thing, and done in a rush. You’ll have staff waiting in the site office, unable to work until the client receives the risk assessments they have asked for.
This is where risk assessment software is really useful. You can login to the system, and search back through for another similar job (jobs rarely differ very much from site-to-site).
All you need to do then is use the risk assessment as a template, change the client details, dates, a quick review, and in a few minutes the new risk assessment is on the way to your client.
In addition, your new risk assessment document that is generated by the system will be in an industry standard format, that you can guarantee will be accepted by any client.
The reason we know it will be accepted, is because there are thousands of other users who are using the same format. The software supplier will be continually taking feedback and tweaking the system to ensure the documents it generates are acceptable to client organisations.
The knock on effect of this is that, if the risk assessments are accepted by all clients, they will also be acceptable to the HSE, CHAS, SafeContractor…
Benefit 3 : Simplified process
The process of risk assessment is based on the 5-steps of risk assessment from the HSE. I won’t go into this in detail here, but basically the step are:
- Identify the hazards
- Identify how may be harmed and how
- Identify and implement the control measures
- Record and communicate the findings of your risk assessment
- Review at regular intervals
It is a simple process, but it can be easy to get lost, especially when trying to execute the 5-steps using a Word document or Excel spreadsheet.
A good risk assessment software platform will implement the 5-steps to risk assessment for you. We often see risk assessment software following a “wizard” type approach with a stage for each step.
The advantage of this is that it becomes much easier for experienced risk-assessors to carry out a risk assessment, and novice assessors can also risk assess with confidence, knowing they are not going to miss anything.
Benefit 4 : No more fighting with Word
It’s been the standard for along time now that you would write risk assessments in a word document or excel spreadsheet. We’ve done it this way for years.
However, Word is a multi-purpose editor that is designed to allow you to create documents of all different types, with specific layouts, photos, fonts, tables and so on.
Now if you’ve used Word, you’ll know it’s an amazing tool, but also at times it can be hugely frustrating.
Difficulties with copy/paste content that doesn’t match up, table layouts going wild, cells spanning over page-breaks… Problems that don’t really affect the content of your document, but do affect what the end result looks like.
These problems distract you from what you’re trying to achieve (which is writing a suitable and sufficient risk assessment). And you can guarantee they will crop up when you’re in a hurry, and need to get that risk assessment sent to your client asap. This can be hugely frustrating.
With risk assessment software, you can focus on the process of risk assessment rather than the layout and other distractions. You can follow the flow of he 5-steps to risk assessment, knowing that you’ll get a professional document at the end of it that you can send straight to your client.
Benefit 5 : Easier tracking and re-use
Another advantage the risk assessment software systems have is that they allow you to track, find and re-use risk assessment easily.
With Word, you probably have a project directory with risk assessment documents in it. To find a specific risk assessment to use as a template, all you have to go on is a file name.
When you do find the file you’re looking for, you open it up and find it’s in an old format – since then you’ve added extra bits that you know this client is going to want (such as pre-control risk ratings…)
With risk assessment software, it becomes much easier to find the documents you’re looking for. The system will generally save the client, site address, dates, description of work etc. in the database.
When you want to find a past risk assessment, you can search on any of the above fields.
Once you’ve found the risk assessment, you can use it as a template for your new one, and know that the document you’ll get at the end of it will be up-to-date and include all the latest information you tend to include for your clients. No re-typing, copy/paste, or struggling with layouts.
As an extra bonus, your new risk assessment is automatically logged in the system and can be used as a template for a future project. By doing this, the system grows and becomes more and more useful each time you use it!
Benefit 6 : Checking and distribution
Our last benefit to risk assessment software is how easy it is to check and distribute risk assessments.
In general, you will have various users who have access to the system. For larger companies, the H&S manager will always have a login. But for smaller companies with no internal H&S manager, you can provide a login to your external H&S advisor.
This allows you to create risk assessment and then flag them for your H&S advisor to review, if it’s a particularly awkward or unusual job.
Your H&S advisor can then login and check through, making adjustments as required. Once again, the changes that your H&S advisor is making will feed back into the system through the templates.
Once everyone is happy with the risk assessment, the system will allow you to send it in an email to your staff and clients (if they have requested a copy).
When staff receive the risk assessment, they can review it and then electronically sign it. This is all logged in the system, and save the to-and-fro that you normally get with sending out H&S documentation.
Risk assessment software has huge benefits for smaller organisations. It is generally accepted that larger companies will run some sort of H&S management software, but small businesses generally overlook the simple advantages of running risk assessment software.
If you’re a small business and interested in risk assessment software that offers all the advantages we’ve mentioned above, please take a look at Safety First – our online Health and Safety Software System
For an overview of the main features you should look for in your health and safety software, please check our post Health and Safety Software : 12 Important features to think about