This page is designed to answer the following questions:
Risks assessments can be useful for addressing dilemmas between an individual’s rights and health and safety concerns.
All individuals have the right to make their own decisions (even unwise ones) and take risks. As a support worker, we should not tell an individual that they cannot do something or try to influence their decisions because of our beliefs and opinions.
However, we can help individuals to weigh up the pros and cons of their choices by assessing the potential risks and balancing them against the potential benefits. The risk assessment process can also help us to minimise or eliminate the risk associated with things that an individual wants to do.
For example an individual with very limited physical movement may want to go to the local swimming baths despite not being able to swim. By assessing the risks with their support worker, they identify that primary risk of drowning can be easily mitigated by ensuring they use a flotation device (life jacket) and having support staff with them at all times. The risk assessment process has supported the individual to pursue an activity they want to do whilst ensuring health and safety risks are reduced to an acceptable level.
Example question and answer
James is 19 years old; he lives with his parents, twice a week he goes bowling or to the cinema with his support workers. They also go with him to the local college where he is studying Horticulture. At his last care planning meeting James expressed a wish to live independently with someone of his own age. His mother is against any change; she has dedicated her life to caring for him since he was diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. She is particularly worried that James will be at risk because he has limited experience of living independently. She is concerned he will make himself ill because he has limited experience of general health and safety in the kitchen and has no understanding about food safety. She will not discuss it with James or the social care workers. James is very angry with her.
Explain how a risk assessment might help address dilemmas between James’s rights and the health and safety concerns expressed by his mother.
A risk assessment will identify any potential risks to James’ health and safety and put procedures and action plans in place to minimise them.
All individuals have the right to take risks and explaining this to James’ mother along with the purpose of the risk assessment may help her to understand that she is causing a barrier to his independence.
Creating a risk assessment in partnership with an individual, their family, support staff and other professionals can help everybody to understand the risks involved in an activity and can highlight potential risks that may not have previously been considered. It would make James and his mother aware of the risks and allow them to develop strategies to reduce the risk as much as possible, whilst also allowing James to exercise his right to be independent. It will also help James to understand the responsibilities he will have for the safety of himself and others.
Having developed solutions to minimise potential risks, the risk assessment should be written up and reviewed on a regular basis to identify any changes that need to be made.