Avoiding Plant Risk Assessment Pitfalls


Avoiding risk assessment pitfalls

Paul Dean | Founder / Director

Road construction worker

Plant is responsible for a huge number of workplace incidents. However well you know your machines, there’s no getting around the significant risks associated with using plant – and the major injuries, and even death, that can result from using plant that isn’t safe.

Plant risk assessments (PRA) are an important part of making sure you’re keeping yourself and your workforce safe – and your equipment in good condition. When it comes to risk assessments, it’s critical you make sure you’re getting it right, not just to keep everyone on-site healthy, but to avoid the major

In this guide, we’ll break down plant PRAs, and help you avoid some of common pitfalls.

First up, what is a Plant Risk Assessment (PRA)?

A PRA involves a comprehensive inspection of a piece of plant or equipment to ensure it is safe for use. It is used to discover any hazards or issues with the item of plant, and to put in place the safety control measures to prevent harm; both to life, but also property and the environment.

What is involved in conducting a PRA?

Traditionally, Plant Risk Assessments are conducted using a 4 step process:

If an error or oversight is made in Steps 1 to 3, this is likely to lead to fundamental flaws in the Plant Risk Assessment.

What are the pitfalls when conducting Plant Risk Assessments?

  • Poor knowledge of the plant being assessed & its functions
  • Poor understanding of hazards present
  • Poor understanding of the risk analysis/evaluation process
  • Poor understanding of the controls required on particular types of plant
  • Inconsistently identifying hazards, assessing risks and specifying controls
  • Failure to implement controls required by the PRA
  • PRAs incomprehensible, misunderstood and unusable in the field


Avoiding the pitfalls of Plant Risk Assessments
The Show Stopper: Plant Safety Knowledge
The most important knowledge requirement, is knowledge of the plant itself. In simple terms, if the person conducting a risk assessment doesn’t have comprehensive knowledge of the plant and how it works, there’s no way they’ll be able to competently undertake a Plant Risk Assessment.

There is just no way around this requirement. If you don’t know the plant, you should not attempt to conduct a Plant Risk Assessment.

Managable Pitfalls: Systemising the Plant Risk Assessment Process

The balance of the pitfalls can be managed by following a systematic approach to the Plant Risk Assessment process.
A systematic approach must aim to institutionalise the knowledge required to consistently and thoroughly follow the risk assessment plan for plant.

This is achieved by providing a structured process which includes sufficient guidance to assessors to reduce subjectivity, inconsistency and incompleteness.

Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information. 

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