Assessment versus Findings
When Your Risk Assessment Differs From Official Findings

When something goes wrong at the worksite, business owners and managers are often left to scratch their heads not only about how the event occurred, but also about the investigative process that follows. Given that a workplace investigator is an objective third party, workplace investigation reports can often raise issues that appear poles apart from your original risk assessment. In this article, we look at some of the common areas where your risk assessment for the business might be different from the findings of a workplace investigator. Importantly, we also provide tips about what you can do to address such disparities.

Currency of law and facts
Risk assessments are ideally carried out regularly, utilising all available specialist information and laws concerning your particular workplace. In terms of workplace health and safety, plus industrial laws, it is not uncommon for changes to both statutes and cases to have an impact on workplace requirements. Without an understanding of the current legal state of play, you may have unintentionally overlooked workplace risks, which are then picked up by the workplace investigator. In this case, your risk assessment is out-of-date and can leave any number of circumstances unaccounted for. On the other hand, your risk assessment might in fact be based upon current legal and industry requirements – but the business situation may have changed. Extra staff, new premises or renovations might have created a problematic situation. If a workplace investigation delivers findings that show flaws related to currency of risk information, this can unfortunately be one of those situations of ‘knowing better next time’. But having regular risk assessments carried out by a trained internal or external professional can ensure that you have the best preparation for any future workplace investigation.
Specialised knowledge
You may be of the opinion that your risk assessment differs from the investigator’s findings due to the investigator’s limited knowledge of your specialist work environment. It is legitimate to raise such concerns with the workplace investigator, particularly if the findings are likely to lead to further action. Remember though that it is not enough to talk in generalisations. Rather than saying: “I do have a safe environment and she knew not to use that ladder,” explain the detailed written policies and training that you provided about unacceptable/ acceptable systems of work and the place of particular items within that system. Note also that it is much better to talk through your concerns about discrepancies during the workplace investigation itself. Investigators are often disinclined to re-open a completed investigation based upon the thoughts of one party. Be open and upfront with the workplace investigator throughout, providing all available information on risk assessments, policies, procedures and staffing.
Staying up-to-date
A risk assessment should show the risks facing the business, and your educated decision about how or whether to carry the potential for risky outcomes. It has to be realistic and as part of this, it must be current. Business is no place for wishful thinking, and such regular analyses allow you to see the risks with clear eyes. To keep future workplace investigation findings as closely aligned as possible to your risk assessment, current knowledge and understanding of the legal and industrial framework that applies to your specific industry is vital. You or a trained risk professional should know the current risk level for your specific business, and any steps being taken to reduce the burden of risk. Forewarned is forearmed, so it pays to prepare your workplace for the close scrutiny that will inevitably accompany any workplace investigation.

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