Most people have heard of risk assessments. In fact, if your business employs more than five people you have a legal responsibility to complete and document risk assessments. What are Risk Assessment Method Statements (RAMS), though, how do they differ from risk assessments, and when should you use them?
RAMS are sometimes referred to as safety method statements or safe system of work documents. They are not as well-known as risk assessments primarily because there is no legal requirement to do them. According to the Health and Safety Executive website, RAMS are “not required by law”.
Should you use them if you don’t have to? Let’s look at this in more detail.
What Are RAMS and How Do They Differ from Risk Assessments?
A risk assessment involves you identifying hazards in your workplace. You must then analyse these hazards to determine if they present a risk that could harm someone. If there is a risk, you must explore and implement ways of eliminating or mitigating the risk.
RAMS are documents companies create after they conduct risk assessments. RAMS documents contain details of the hazard as well as a step-by-step safe working guide that employees, contractors, and others can follow. As a result, RAMS have more detail than risk assessments.
- Risk assessments identify, quantify, and then control risks
- Method Statements describe detailed steps on how to complete the job and avoid the risk identified in the risk assessment (i.e. how to do the job safely)
As you can see, it is logical that Method Statements should follow risk assessments. After all, if there is still a risk to employees or others after you take all possible mitigation actions, the obvious next step is to decide on and communicate work processes that help keep people safe.
Do Companies Use RAMS?
RAMS are common in the construction industry but other sectors rarely use them. One of the reasons they are common in construction is that companies often include them as a requirement in the tender process. They use RAMS to help prepare their own safety documentation in addition to using them to help assess the health and safety policies of companies who submit tenders.
Is it right that only the construction industry extensively uses RAMS? Should all organisations be using them?
Making Workplaces Safer or Another Administrative Burden?
If a risk exists you should tell employees and others how they can do the job without injuring themselves or anyone else.
RAMS are key component of e-permits in helping ensure that the right people, with the right skills, work to the right method statement, in the right place, at the right time. This is how we prevent avoidable incidents and ensure that people get to go home safely at night.
RAMS also bring a range of benefits to your business. This includes the benefits of having an effective health and safety strategy such as reduced absentee rates, improved productivity through employee satisfaction, and less risk of the business suffering financially and reputationally in the event of a serious incident.
Other specific benefits of RAMS include:
- Helping with decision making – with a risk assessment, you may discuss ways of doing a task safely, but there is no requirement to come to a formal decision. RAMS help you make the right decision.
- Reducing misunderstandings – in responsible workplaces, management will communicate to staff ways to complete tasks in as safe a way as possible. After all, managers don’t want to see members of their teams or others getting injuries or worse. However, verbal or informal instructions are open to misunderstanding and can change the further down the line they go. RAMS formalise the process and so reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.
- Improving processes – by coming up with a step-by-step guide for safely completing tasks that involve risk, you can improve overall processes and enhance productivity in your business.
When you take all three of the above together, you can see that RAMS will improve business performance as well safety.
How to Use RAMS
Wherever there is a task that has a risk you cannot completely eliminate by other actions or measures, you should have a RAMS document in place. Here are some best practice tips in relation to RAMS:
- Include the risk assessment as part of the document
- Include supervisor details, equipment involved, and anything else relevant to the task
- Include details of first aid provision
- Make sure you prepare a detailed step-by-step guide on how to perform the task safely, covering every step in the process
- Make sure everyone involved in the task, now and in the future, gets a copy of the RAMS document
The latter one is important as many companies neglect it. Preparing a RAMS document should not be a box-ticking exercise, though. The only way for it to become useful and effective at minimising risk is for those involved in the task to know of its existence and have read and understood it.
Here is one final tip: you should put procedures in place to ensure the regular review of RAMS documents. If you don’t do this, they can end up being folders gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. They are way too important to end up like this.