Arinite Blog


Health and Safety at Work: Critical Risk Controls

Category: Health & Safety | Bryan Richards Twitter | Published on: Oct 25, 2016 | Updated: Dec 12, 2016 Read more: Health & Safety


The principle of identifying critical risk control measures for workplace activities is well established in high risk industries, such as mining, chemical and offshore, and for food safety in the form of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Critical controls are also covered in the HSE guidance on process safety.

What about critical risk controls for other workplaces?

The HSE guidance states, “while aimed mainly at major hazard organisations, the generic model will also apply to other enterprises requiring a high level of assurance that systems and procedures operate as intended”. However, in Arinite’s experience, most organisations follow the HSE’s basic principles of identifying hazards and risk control measures without identifying control measures that may be critical. For many lower risk work activities, this will be adequate.

However, where there are, say six control measures for a higher risk activity which reduces the residual risk to low, there is a danger that any critical risk control measures may be unrecognised amongst these six controls. This may result in all the measures being treated in the same way, yet a failure in some controls may have more serious consequences than others. Where there is a positive health and safety culture, this should not matter, but where workers only loosely follow the control procedures, this could result in a failure of a critical risk control, exposing a high-level risk.

When safety management goes wrong

Health and safety fines have increased significantly in several cases this year due to a change in sentencing guidelines. Many of these cases refer to failures in risk assessment, and/or the implementation of critical risk control measures. Some of these cases have been high profile and two recent examples are shown in Table 1.

Case HSE Comment
Alton Towers amusement park operator Merlin Attractions Operations has been fined £5 million for the Smiler rollercoaster crash that injured 16 people, five of them seriously. HSE inspector said: “This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems to allow engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running. This made it all too easy for a whole series of unchecked mistakes, not just one push of a button, to result in tragic consequences.”
Star Wars film maker fined £1.6 million for injuring Harrison Ford. Mr Ford suffered a broken leg and deep lacerations when he was knocked off his feet and pinned to the floor of the Millennium Falcon set, as a prop door closed on him. HSE inspector said: “This incident was foreseeable and preventable and could have resulted in more serious injury or even death. “I think everyone would accept that all the people who work in the film industry have a right to know that the risks they take to entertain us, including when making action movies, are properly managed and controlled.”

Management of Critical Control Measures – Workplace Risk Assessment

So, what can you do to ensure critical risk control measures are identified and managed?
critical control risk
After completing a workplace risk assessment for a higher risk activity, each of the identified risk control measures should be examined as shown in figure 1.

If any of the measures are identified as critical, then they should be highlighted as a critical control.

This can also be transferred to safe working procedures and method statements.

Where a critical control is identified, it should be ensured that it is verified through audit, inspection and making sure that workers know and understand critical controls through training, information, and supervision.

How Arinite can help

Arinite can assist in the carrying out of risk assessments and/or providing risk assessment training for employees.

Contact us

Arinite clients appreciate we provide practical, no-nonsense advice about what you need to do to establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment. My team of health and safety consultants take pride in keeping health and safety simple.

If you need to call upon our expert assistance, or just for an informal chat, please call me on: mobile 0780 361 2948, office 0207 947 9581, or drop me a line at

Bryan Richards 25th October 2016

Arinite Ltd, Warnford Court, 29 Throgmorton Street, London EC2N 2AT

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