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METHOD STATEMENTS: TIME FOR CHANGE IN 2016?

Not required? Not followed? and Not necessary?

The written Method Statement (MS) has been part of the construction project H&S scene since the early 1980’s and the subsequent legal requirement regarding Risk Assessment (RA) led to the acronym RAMS – Risk Assessment and Method Statement.

HSE explain that risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have enough precautions or whether you should do more.

You MUST carry out a risk assessment but you only need to record the “significant findings” if you employ five or more people. By contrast, HSE explains that a safety method statement is “NOT required by law” and that whether safety method statements are used or not, it is essential to make sure that risks are controlled.

Are method statements helping to control risk?

Despite the near universal use of method statements we frequently hear comment t that “nobody reads the method statement” or that the MS is far too long and prepared without reference to those carrying out the work.

The MS is viewed by many as the “paperwork” required and designed to satisfy clients or regulators with little relevance to how risk and precautions are communicated on the project.

Checking that the MS is being followed is often secondary to having the statement signed by those likely to be injured and safely filed away.

The revelation that the MS is not, or cannot be followed, often comes to light after an accident, or a visit by the regulator.

Is it therefore time to rethink the role of Method Statements on construction projects? Questions we should ask in 2016 include:

  • Not Required? – why do line managers and H&S advisers spend so much time on something which is NOT a legal requirement and held in contempt by many?
  • Risk Assessment? – would it be better to invest that time and energy on implementing the risk assessment which already identifies the hazards and required controls?
  • Focus on checking? – would this allow more time for checking that the sensible controls required are being followed rather than preparing and shuffling around an additional document which is not required by law?
  • Greater involvement? – would such change result in greater involvement of those carrying out the work and improve their understanding of the risks and commitment to maintaining the control measures required?

We would not want to throw the baby out with the bath water and many may conclude that their current MS system remains fit for purpose. However, our experience suggests that the construction project Method Statement is not in “good health” and in need of thorough review by all as we move into 2016.

Some Relevant Posts

HSE PLEA FOR FOCUS ON CONTROL NOT ‘PAPERWORK’
Paperwork makes H&S risk assessments a “bugbear”
ANNUAL RISK ASSESSMENT REVIEWS NOT REQUIRED
HSE Myth Buster panel holds forth on risk assessments
MODEL RISK ASSESSMENTS ENDORSED IN HSE GUIDE
New guidance on risk assessment requirement simplified and updated

 

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