Written by Steven Mullan 13.09.23
Risk assessments and method statements (RAMS) are essential to creating safe and secure workplaces. But their effectiveness depends on how detailed they are. This guide explains the importance of site-specific RAMS in creating safer workspaces.
In the years since they’ve been made a legal requirement by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR), risk assessments have played a vital role in making workplaces in Great Britain safer.
Whereas the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 outlines the general health and safety duties of employers, self-employed people, and employees alike, MHSWR reinforces the 1974 Act and calls on employers to make a suitable risk assessment of:
The risks to the health and safety of their employees while they are at work
The risks to the health and safety of the public who may be affected by their work or operations.
An ancillary, but no less important, document for ensuring workplace health and safety is the method statement. It outlines the measures for controlling the risks in your risk assessment and provides instructions for how to carry out tasks safely, whether it’s dismantling a structure or installing scaffolding.
Related Reading: What Is A Method Statement?
As the HSE explains, the method statement “describes in a logical sequence exactly how a job is to be carried out in a way that secures health and safety and includes all the control measures.”
Together, risk assessments and method statements, or RAMS, enable employers to conduct thorough analyses of working activities, understand the potential risks associated with these actions, and address them before they lead to an accident or injury.
RAMS can also help employers craft protocols detailing how they should correctly complete tasks to prevent any hazardous incidents from occurring. These tools provide guidance for employees on how to carry out their assigned duties in the safest manner possible, and they also enable organisations to communicate and promote best practices throughout their entire workforce.
Generic vs Site-Specific RAMS — What’s The Difference?
As you read about RAMS documents, you’ll eventually come across the terms “generic” and “site-specific” risk assessments. Here’s how you can tell the difference.
1. Generic RAMS
Generic risk assessments and method statements highlight common hazards and risks in general work tasks and activities. You can use them in different locations, teams and even companies for tasks or works that are similar — making them easy to template and roll out.
Advantages: The generic information in these documents means they are an ideal starting point for conducting risk assessments of daily or regular activities conducted by workers. For instance, most excavation works follow the same sequence of steps, regardless of your excavation site or project location.
Disadvantages: Generic RAMS documents may fail to account for small but important differences in worksites or workplaces, which can affect their accuracy or relevance. For best results, make it a point to review generic risk assessments and update them where necessary.
2. Site-Specific RAMS
Site-specific risk assessments are arguably the most critical type of risk assessment as they are designed for specific activities in specific locations. They are indispensable in high-risk environments such as construction sites, where variables like terrain, materials used, or the number of workers introduce a unique set of health and safety risks.
Advantages: Site-specific RAMS enable you to demonstrate attention to detail in the workplace, highlighting health and safety hazards in specific environments, tasks or working conditions. With their high relevance and detail, site-specific RAMS documents allow employers to control — if not eliminate — risks and keep people safe.
Disadvantages: Because each site-specific risk assessment has to be built from scratch — or a generic risk assessment — they will require more time and effort from your organisation and employees to complete.
Which Type Of RAMS Documents Are Best?
HSE estimates show that 67% of non-fatal workplace accidents are caused by slips, trips and falls (on the same level and from a height), manual handling, or being struck by moving objects. In other words, you can prevent the majority of workplace accidents with adequate safety measures, which is where RAMS documents come in.
Generic and site-specific RAMS have their ideal applications in any workplace. But site-specific RAMS may be best for your needs if your organisation regularly engages in hazardous types of work — as is common in industries like construction and manufacturing.
Ultimately, by taking the time to conduct risk assessments and implement RAMS, you can ensure that your work environments are risk-free and meet all relevant industry health and safety standards.