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Risk assessments must be more than a paper exercise

It has certainly been an exciting few weeks at Woods Whur with James Thompson and Vinnie Schumacher joining us in May. James gave us all a very entertaining presentation on his general practice which includes a huge range of work including: food safety, crisis management, corporate manslaughter, health and safety, environmental crime and compliance, business immigration and consumer protection/trading standards. I should of course say that Vinnie also gave us an interesting presentation on his time as a young chap in Wellington, New Zealand!

Spending time with James has been a good reminder to us all on the importance of risk assessments and written policies. I have represented many clients over the years and defending many clients both in respect of licensing reviews and occasionally heath and safety and other general regulatory matters and I constantly remind clients that risk assessments must be more than a paper exercise and must be taken seriously. It is absolutely essential for all operators to have a working up to date practice manual on site which covers general risk assessments and crisis management.

Paddy and I had clients who operated premises very close to the Manchester Arena and last week’s terrible events served us a reminder to all of the importance not only of having written policies and risk assessments but implementing them and ensuring that staff understand how to deal with certain situations and how to try and prevent certain situations. If you have a written policy/risk assessment that you ID everybody who doesn’t look over 21 then ensure staff comply with the policy and ensure staff understand the reasoning behind the policy. If you have a written policy/risk assessment that requires kitchen tops to be cleaned, corridors to be kept clear of rubbish, staff to be alert to the dangers of drug dealers then do not just keep these documents in a lever arch file hidden in the office. It is necessary to have regular refresher training sessions with staff on going working practice and risk assessments and to emphasise the fact that these risk assessments are written so as to protect the public and the staff from risks.

As part of our annual review meeting on the 24 May, I reminded all of our staff of our risk assessments and policies which included a 10 minute section on anti-money laundering. It is not the most exciting topic but I am pleased to say that all staff took note of the “red flag indicators” of anti-money laundering and understood the reason why we have to be alert to money laundering and to ensure that we carry out the necessary checks. It is not something that was invented to create additional paperwork. Risk assessments and policies are there for a reason.

Paddy and I have had some interesting discussions with James with regard to the types of cases that he has dealt with and James has very kindly offered to give a free training session to any clients (or in fact anybody reading this newsletter) on the general rules for regulatory control and risk assessments. In 2017, there is simply no excuse now for operators not to have policies and procedures in place and for staff not to fully understand these policies and procedures and if anybody wants any further assistance on this topic, they should either contact me or James (