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  1. 1. A rough guide to risk assessment Health and safety is paramount in the professional field of social and therapeutic horticulture. Not only do we have the obvious responsibility to our clients, but also to staff and other visitors to our sites, to keep everything safe. It is also an essential part of the skills that clients at the garden project must learn with us. Insurance, though essential, does not stop accidents and it does not spread awareness of hazards. These can only be avoided and mitigated by thorough and careful risk assessment. Risk assessment is often thought of as scary, additional red tape, time consuming and just a bit of a headache. Well, it can be hard work, particularly in the first instance, and it does take a change of mentality to focus on what you do; but without it problem areas can be missed and forward planning can miss the mark. If risks are not fully recognised then when problems occur there is often little understanding of why and how things happened as they did. Without risk assessment, the whole process of dealing with risks becomes reactionary, not proactive. And one further myth must be dispelled here, which is that it will stop clients, staff and volunteers doing what they want to do, and enjoying themselves doing it. This is not the purpose or the consequence of risk assessment. Risk assessment should: · Provide awareness and recognition of potential hazards · Record and develop strategies and precautions that reduce the risk of a hazard occurring · Be realistic – precautions are there to make life safer, not necessarily restrict people’s actions · Be flexible – once written, rules can change (and in some cases should). The first consideration is what to risk assess. Some things are obvious – machinery, chemicals (e.g. paint), petrol – but also your site and most of your activities need to be considered too. Organisations such as BTCV produce generic risk assessment packs for many tools and outdoor activities. However, only by writing your own site-specific assessments will you ensure that you know and understand them. Site-specific risk assessments will cover certain areas, such as: ramps, steps, glasshouses, ponds, and food/drink preparation areas. These often cover very basic elements, such as ‘what should happen when someone spills a hot drink on the tea-room floor?’ By involving clients in assessing your site and the activities they do, not only can some of the work be done during client hours, but it also implements one of the major aims of risk assessment, which is making everybody aware of hazards in the work place. Thrive Briefing Sheet no: Personal risk assessments Personal risk assessments are guidelines and strategies that enable therapists and trainers to plan suitable work that keeps them and others safe. It considers the direct potential for harm to an individual and others, and requires some sensitivity. It will involve factors such as: 7
  2. 2. medical/health needs, medication, epilepsy, memory, concentration, strength, stamina, understanding instructions and behaviour. Referring Other sources of agencies and residential carers will have some of the information you information need, including their own personal risk assessments for clients. Staff and volunteers, as well as clients, must be included in personal risk Risk Assessment: a assessments. We are all affected by health issues and medication, by Learning resource pack fatigue and working outdoors. Allergies, bad backs, heart problems, available from: asthma and the effects of medication need to be recognised in our BTCV, Sedum House, volunteers and staff, as well as clients. As with all risk assessment, the Mallard Way, Potteric procedures laid down must be clearly written, and it is important that Carr, Doncaster DN4 8DB these procedures are followed at all times. Tel: 01302 388 888 A lot of work? Yes, but here are a few tips, which should make it Information@btcv.org.uk simpler: www.btcv.org · Don’t make it a lone task – work with colleagues. Don’t forget to search out guidelines from elsewhere instead of re-inventing the Risk Assessment booklets wheel available from: · Risk assessment is a tool – it can be used not only in health and Health and Safety safety awareness on site, but can also highlight problems to Executive management and be used as evidence over support issues with Southwark Bridge, certain clients and in the need for extra staffing on site London SE1 9HS · Don’t do it all at once – allot time to working at the risk assessment Tel: 0845 345 0055 in sections. It is very much a work in progress and doing it bit by bit hseinfoline@natbrit.com does help www.hse.gov.uk · Use outside help – BTCV is a very good place to start for tools and site assessment. For personal assessment, referring agencies (Social Services, Carers, previous day services) may have information you can use. And there is always the Health and Safety Executive · Review regularly – situations and people change and assessments should change accordingly. It also allows new staff to become familiar with the process · Follow assessments up – there is no point in writing an assessment if you know full well that nobody is going to follow it. Precautionary measures can be worked towards (you will soon build up a health and safety action plan) but record it as such, with a contingency plan in place in the mean time · Consistency of approach – risk assessments should be used to provide consistency in the way health and safety and certain situations are handled. It is another good reason for all staff to be involved in their development, as the strategies will be those that staff want to follow themselves · The simpler the better – don’t make hard work of it. Your precautions are there to make things safer; they don’t have to clever or complicated. In fact the simpler the better.  Completing risk assessments will help you to understand your site and your work better, as well as make it safer, so don’t keep putting it off: work through it. Then you can relax knowing that not only have you fully appreciated the safety of your site but also finished a piece of work that hangs over all our heads as horticultural therapists and trainers.