A Hull based company, Redhall Engineering Services, found themselves facing such a scenario in 2018, after it was found that failure to complete correct RAMS had caused and led to the injury of two workers. The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and received a £14,000 fine.
Now, if you are new to risk management or health and safety policy, you may not be familiar with the lesser known safe-system-of-work documents that are referred to as RAMS. And if you are familiar with RAMS, you may be wondering how documents that are not legally required, can fetch such a hefty fine.
Alternatively, you could be puzzled about how different they are from risk assessments documents or how they are used to improve workplace safety?
In this article, we seek to answer these questions as well as provide guided steps on how to prepare and complete a RAMS document.
What Are RAMS?
RAMS documents serve the same overall purpose; to ensure workplace safety. But for all their similarities, Risk Assessments and Method Statements are still two different documents with a few unique qualities and motivations of their own, as we shall further explore later.
This, however, also means that the two documents are prepared differently, with risk assessments being the first to be completed. And here is how.
The 5 Steps Of The Risk Assessment Processing (Simplified)
It is also important to determine the scope of the assessment, necessary resources, stakeholders involved, and laws and regulations that you will need to follow before proceeding with the following steps.
Step #1 - Identify the Hazards
Thoroughly examine your workplace and look out for what operating procedures or activities could potentially cause harm. As you do this, be mindful to include all aspects of the workplace operations, even remote workers and non-routine activities like repair and maintenance.
Here is a list of some of the most common safety hazards, which you can consider while on this step.
- Natural disasters (flooding, earthquakes, fire, etc.)
- Biological hazards (pandemic diseases, foodborne illnesses, etc.)
- Workplace accidents (slips and trips, transportation accidents, structural & mechanical breakdowns)
- Intentional acts (labor strikes, demonstrations, bomb threats, robbery, arson, etc.)
- Technological hazards (lost Internet connection, power outage, etc.)
- Chemical hazards (asbestos, cleaning fluids, etc.)
- Mental hazards (excess workload, bullying, etc.)
- Interruptions in the supply chain
We recommend using a checklist to record your observations, and involving as many experienced staff or recruiting trained HSE professionals that are familiar with the kind of activities being assessed.
Step #2 - Determine Who Is At Risk and How They Might Be Harmed
Step #3 - Evaluate The Risks and Decide On Precautions
This evaluation helps determine which major hazards to prioritize first, and which others could have their levels of risk simply reduced.
Step #4 - Record Significant Findings
The record—or the risk assessment plan—should show that the following took place:
- Conducted a proper check of your workspace
- Determined who would be affected
- Controlled and dealt with obvious hazards
- Initiated precautions to keep risks low
- Kept your staff involved in the process
Step #5 - Review Assessment and Update Where Necessary
Over time, continual review and revision may be necessary to stay on top of any new or emerging hazards when conditions change or based on feedback from the team completing the activity.
Now that we know that a risk assessment is an assessment of risk, and how to prepare one, what about method statements?
Three Action Steps for Preparing an Effective Method Statement
Therefore, after compiling a comprehensive Risk Assessment document, half the work is done. From here, to design your own method statement, you shall follow these next actions:
Action #1 - List Hazards and Outline Safety Responses
Action #2 - Write Step-By-Step Instructions
Any extra information that will help your team understand the instructions better, should be provided here. For instance, instructional diagrams can be added here to ensure comprehension.
Action #3 - Revise Statements For New Locations, Equipment and Guidelines
We recommend that you regularly update your method statements to reflect changes in reporting procedures, clean-up procedures and project phases as well.
The Benefits of Using RAMS Documents
- Supports Safe Decision Making - When workers run into project roadblocks and must make quick decisions about how to complete certain tasks, RAMS can be used to guide the safest choice of action. Method Statements can quickly offer the answers workers need and support safe decision making, without having to wait for formal approval.
- Prevents Misunderstandings - When it comes to workplace safety, verbal or informal instructions can become misunderstood and can be altered as the message is passed on. Such practices increase the likelihood of misinterpretation of how a task should be completed, which can lead to serious accidents and injuries. Method statements formalize the necessary processes with a clear safe step-by-step system of work which eliminates confusion.
- Improves Productivity and Efficiency - With a step-by-step guide in place to explain how to safely complete a task that involves risk, any cause for hesitation or experimental approaches to work activities is eliminated. Instead, with RAMS processes are improved so that any qualified or trained worker can complete a task efficiently which enhances productivity.
- Reduce Absence Due to Sickness - Method Statements can help ensure the health and safety of workers. For instance, in high-risk industries RAMS will detail how to implement safety measures and to eliminate risks associated with prolonged hours of exposure to harmful biohazards. This reduces employees' absence due to sickness and the associated costs — like sick pay, cover and imaginably even compensation.
- Reduce the Risk of Fines and Other Legal Penalties - The overall improvement in safety compliance and risk management legislation supported by RAMS, reduces the risk of your business being fined or facing other legal penalties.
- Protects Your Business' Reputation - By effectively protecting both employees and clients from harm while business operations are being conducted, RAMS can indirectly help to improve or remedy your company's reputation.
Without RAMS, a business could face not only monetary loss (through fines, civil actions, etc.), but also loss in production time, damage to equipment, time to train replacement employees and negative publicity amongst others. In short, RAMS are put in place to protect your business from the consequences of such poor risk management, while improving business operations.
They are especially important health and safety documents and should thus be treated as such. From preparation of the document to the implementation of its instructions, it should be remembered that RAMS are most effective at minimizing risk when they are used instead of stowed away in long forgotten filing cabinets.
Do you need help with your risk assessments and method statements for your business?
Coyle-Group can help your organization with the arrangement and completion of all necessary requirements for an effective RAMS document, as well as provide any additional top-class compliance consultancy services.
Contact us today for a free consultation!