Risk Assessment Matrix
Ahhh the beloved risk matrix... Imho, one of the least understood and most misused tools in the H&S toolkit.
I do not believe a one-size fits all approach works when it comes to developing and using a risk matrix - but that is what tends to be done.
Site Safe has created one, but it is open to interpretation, therefore, it my experience it is of very little valuable use. Much more instruction / explanation is required, along with personalisation to fit the specific risk appetite and procedure of the organisation.
Some of the key issues I have with this example are:
1. It says to 'consider the severity of injury/illness' - but is this the maximum potential severity, or the most likely severity? It does not say. If it's the maximum potential severity, then most work risks inevitably fall in the catastrophic or major category (as worst case scenario for even a minor trip hazard could be a head injury, a broken neck, or death - rare yes, but 'possible' if we are thinking maximum potential). On the other hand, if we look at the most likely consequence, hazards with catastrophic potential can be underestimated simply because the likelihood of the catastrophic outcome is low. Critical risks can be inadequately identified and managed in this instance.
2. The descriptions of the examples given for the severity options create a focus on 'safety' rather than health (or any other type of risk for that matter, e.g. financial, environmental, reputational etc.).
3. Without specific guidance, likelihood is massively open to interpretation and the influences of individual bias. Arguably, even with guidance, there is still room for this, but being so ambiguous just worsens the issues. What one person thinks is 'likely to happen' based on their personal experiences and perceptions, could be considered as 'unlikely to happen' to another person. Who is right? How do we get consensus?
4. We assess the risk... and then WHAT? As Chris pointed out, this example does not include any actions or implications related to the outcome of the risk assessment. There is no determination of what is an acceptable level of risk.
Anyway, I've taken up enough space here. I'm very interested in this though - keen to see what others have to say. I have rarely come across what I would consider to be a good risk assessment.