Risk Assessments are a Legal Requirement
11th March 2014
The need to carry out risk assessments is a core activity for health and safety in the workplace. The law requires risk assessments to be carried out. So, are your risk assessments suitable and sufficient? Are they up to date? Are they sensible?
Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess the risks to their employees while they are at work. They also need to consider the risks to non-employees such as contractors and the public. The self-employed have a similar duty.
Where there are five or more employees, the significant findings of the assessment must be recorded. There is no formal requirement to review the assessments on a regular (e.g. annual) basis, but they must always be up to date.
Specific risk assessments must be carried out for young workers, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Sometimes there will be the need to consider other regulations which also require risk assessment, such as those dealing with asbestos, ionising radiation, and hazardous chemicals.
How to Ensure Effective Risk Assessments are Conducted
To do a risk assessment, you need to understand what, in your business, might cause harm and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent that harm. Once you have decided that, you need to identify and prioritise putting in place appropriate and sensible control measures.
- Identifying what can harm people in your workplace
- Identifying who might be harmed and how
- Evaluating the risks and deciding on the appropriate controls, taking into account the controls you already have in place
- Recording your risk assessment
- Reviewing and updating your assessment.
- Make sure that those who perform risk assessments have been trained. This is essential if the results are to be meaningful and accurate. Using a team of people to do the assessments – involving managers, staff representatives and those doing the work – is often an effective approach.
- Make sure that the resources used and the level of detail is in proportion with the risk. Trivial risks can be ignored and don’t spend all your time on low-risk issues.
- Be sensible about what you record following risk assessment. Don’t generate a bureaucratic mountain of paperwork. Keep records simple and sensible.
- Make sure that those doing the work know the results of the assessment and how to protect themselves. This is the true test of whether the assessment process is effective.
Risk assessment is not a paperwork exercise; it’s about protecting your staff. Review your risk assessment policies and procedures now.