The Issue Based Risk Assessment

An Issue Based Risk Assessment will look more in-depth at the risk that comes with the issue that have been identified in a Baseline Risk Assessment. This could range from the introduction of new equipment to findings made in the continuous risk assessment.

The days where employees performed the same task for their entire career, have long gone. Demand by the market and new technologies are introduced at such rapid speed these days that almost every company has full-time people employed to research those demands and changes and to consider what is required for implementation. Increase in profitability is often the main driver behind the implementation of new technology or a change in production or procedures. But the profitability will become void if risk is not considered. A proper issue based risk assessment should, therefore, be a prerogative.

The issue based risk assessment focuses on operational activities, processes and systems based business functions. It focuses on the identification of the risks within a certain task, process or activity and is usually associated with the management of change.

Examples of situations or changes that require an issue based risk assessments include:

  • The introduction of a new machine or piece of equipment
  • A change in a work-system that is used or operations that change
  • After an accident or a ‘near-miss’ has occurred
  • When a new design, layout, equipment, or process, etc. is to be introduced
  • When findings of Hazards Identification or (general) risk assessment hint that improvements could be made
  • When employees believe things could be improved
  • When a risk profile changes
  • When new knowledge and information regarding the level of risk to employees becomes available
  • When an environmental impact assessments is conducted

An issue based risk assessment goes to great detail in re-evaluating the risk in more depth and then designing suitable treatment or control strategies.
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To conduct an issue based risk assessment, specialists often use the so-called SWIFT-technique. The Structured What-If Technique (SWIFT) is a systematic team-oriented technique for hazard identification. It considers deviations from normal operations. Like with a baseline risk assessment, conducting an issue based risk assessment and providing a solution requires input from various people and specialists involved. There is no single standard approach to SWIFT – one of its strengths is that it is flexible, and that it can be modified to suit each individual application.

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How the risk assessment should be conducted will change over time to time and is something that doesn't have a strict protocol. However a few steps that should be considered are as follows:

  1. Define the systems/processes being analysed.
  2. Consider each in turn.
  3. Brainstorm possible hazards. List but do not discuss hazards yet.
  4. Structure the hazards into a logical sequence for discussion.
    • Start with the major ones, and prioritise the selection of others.
  1. Consider each hazard in turn.
    • Consider possible causes of the event.
    • Consider possible consequences if the event occurs.
    • Consider safeguards that are planned to be in place to prevent the event occurring.
    • Consider frequency and consequence.
    • Record the discussion on SWIFT log sheets
  1. Reconsider whether or not any hazards have been omitted.
    • Use checklists and, where available previous accident experience to check for completeness.

Note that, like any assessment of risk, the outcome of an issue based risk assessment should be re-evaluated regularly, as there is no such thing as a manual for life!
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Posted date: 10th May 2022
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