I've been working at Norbar for 14 years, and for 10 of those I've been part of the company's Health & Safety committee. The committee meets once a month and comprises of 15 like-minded employees from a cross-section of departments.


One of the main functions of the meeting is to coordinate the schedule of risk assessments within Norbar. A risk assessment is a systematic and effective method of identifying risks and determining the most suitable means to minimise or remove them. At Norbar we endeavour to individually risk assess each department/area in the company every two years or upon significant change. Obviously as the company grows, so does the amount of assessments required, but it is a great testament to the committee members that for the most part we keep up!


Over the years I have completed numerous risk assessments, and it never ceases to amaze me how there is always improvements to be made to make our company a safer place. We have recently modified our risk assessment documentation to record information in a more clear and concise way and to focus our attention on task-based risks. Historically we have used one generic document for all recorded information i.e. task-based risks, unsafe conditions, and general observations etc. For larger departments the documentation became quite lengthy and it was difficult to interpret what was an unsafe condition (i.e. a hole in the floor causing a potential tripping hazard) and what was a task-based risk (i.e. an operator loading heavy steel billets into a machine chuck).  The document was designed in a way that made us start over again every time we re-assessed an area. It also did not work particularly well when briefing new employees to departments, as sometimes what was documented was no longer relevant. We have now split our assessment documentation into two well defined parts.


Our first document is specifically designed to log task-based risks present in the department. The risks we record are ones we currently cannot remove, however we make particular reference to the current risk reduction controls we have in place i.e. Guarding, Standard Operating Procedures, Personal Protective Equipment etc. We also calculate a score-rating to each risk using our in-house scoring matrix; this helps us prioritise improvement actions. This is a live document that is added to and evolves when the area is re-assessed; it is displayed in the department for all employees to see.


We have titled the second document 'Tasks and Observations'. We use this document to record anything extra that has been observed during the risk assessment. This could be items such as unsafe conditions, good/bad adherence to risk reduction controls, ideas for future improvement, agreed actions etc.  We are finding that this document is particularly useful during follow-up meetings as it is easy to see what has been agreed along with the completion date. This document is archived for future reference, however a new one is created every time the department/area is re-assessed.


This change is still in it's infancy, but I think we have taken a big step forward in the way we record our risk assessments. It has made it a lot easier to brief new employees on the tasked-based risks present in their department, and they are no longer distracted by information recorded on the 'Tasks and Observations' document. It also reduces the amount of paperwork Risk Assessors have to create in the future as there is no need to rewrite the assessment each time the department is re-assessed.


I enjoy my time on the Health & Safety committee at Norbar and I find it to be one of the most satisfying parts of my job. I have the chance to prevent incidents and improve people’s working environment, which I find very rewarding. Here's to another 10 years!


Darren Smithson - Production Engineer