Legally, every new job needs to have a risk assessment done, in order to comply with health and safety in the workplace regulations. If your main business is re-plastering domestic buildings, or dry lining new builds, it is likely that the same risk assessment will apply for all jobs, needing only a few tweaks depending on the site specifics, such as stairwells or large windows posing a fall risk in certain buildings, or issues around on-site power and trailing cables. It is vital that each new job is approached with the mind-set of finding and identifying risks before any work is started, and that these risks are noted. From the assessment, a plan of action can be drawn up to minimise the possibility of injury arising from these hazards. A method statement is also useful for jobs where there is an unusual risk, as it sets out the ways in which the workforce will address and work around any potential risks.
The acronym RAMS is often used with regards to risk assessments, and this can stand for Risk Assessment Management System or Risk Assessment and Method Statement. They both mean similar things, but the first definition is most often used to refer to software or paper systems that address risk assessments and make them easy to produce. There are a number of apps and software programmes available that will produce a risk assessment with very little input from a human, but it is a good idea to run through the process fully from start to finish a few times when you start out doing risk assessments. By being totally involved at all stages you gain a much better understanding of what constitutes a risk, how to overcome them and what to write on a method statement than relying on software to do the job for you. It also means that when you do use an app or software you will notice any shortfalls in the assessment it produces, and you can properly address unusual risks that will not be accounted for in standardised software.
Method statements are also useful for other trades you may be collaborating with, especially if you are both working in the space at the same time. Should any issues arise between the two trades regarding working practices, it is good to be able to produce a risk assessment and method statement to back up your ways of working and demonstrate that there is a need to work in a certain way to address any risks present.
CITB offer a risk assessment app which is free to download. After inputting some job details it produces a risk assessment and a project plan with tips on health and safety in the workplace. The HSE and partners also offer downloadable templates that you can use to do your risk assessments, or use as a starting point for creating your own – plasterers working on renovation projects and with different materials, such as lime plasters, may find that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t cover the very specific risks associated with working on older properties.
When taking on new staff or employing labourers it is very important that they are provided with the risk assessments and method statements so they can work safely, and that they are provided with the correct equipment to do so. Additionally, if members of staff have not been trained in ladder use, or in how to use a spray plastering machine, they should not be allowed to use that equipment until they have had the proper training. Employers leave themselves open to litigation if they fail to make employees aware of risks, how health and safety is managed or fail to provide proper training. Once you get going it can be surprisingly easy to undertake a full risk assessment and address potential issues without it taking too long.