Risk assessments are an integral duty of every employer in the UK. That being said, carrying out a generic risk assessment doesnt cut it. There are certain legal requirements that must be fulfilled for employers to avoid legal liability should a worker be injured at work. This article outlines the main laws relating to risk assessments for business and gives employers a key checklist to ensure their risk assessments are fully compliant. 

What is a Risk Assessment? 

A risk assessment is an investigation undertaken by an employer about the hazards and risks that may affect their workers (or other relevant persons) during the course of work at their workplace. It is part of fulfilling an employers legal duties to take reasonable steps to protect their employees from harm at work. 

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What Hazards are There in the Workplace?

Hazards can and do vary from workplace to workplace. The inherent nature of your business may give rise to unique hazards as well as a higher risk profile. Hazards include things such as risks during manual work, handling of dangerous substances, risk of repetitive strain injury, or even certain techniques, shift patterns or staffing policies. 

When is Risk Assessment a Legal Requirement?

All employers in the UK have a legal duty to protect their employees (and all other relevant people) from harm. A part of this duty is managing risk and therefore carrying out proper risk assessments. 

As stipulated by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers mustmake a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst at work, as well as the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking…’ . This essentially translates to: 

  • Identifying hazards that might cause injury/illness within their workplace 
  • Assessing how much risk this hazard presents
  • Addressing the hazard or control the risk 

Depending on the nature of your business, you may face higher or lower risk on a day-to-day basis. Ensure to take appropriate action and follow relevant advice pertaining to your risk profile. 

Risk Assessment Requirements Under the Law 

In order for a risk assessment to be legally compliant and deemed suitable and sufficient, you must be able to show that: 

  • A thorough and proper check was carried out 
  • You asked who might be implicated by the risks
  • All obvious risks were addressed 
  • You have taken reasonable precautions so that any remaining risk is now low 
  • All relevant workers or their representatives were involved in the risk assessment 
  • A proportionate amount of detail and attention was taken during the assessment 

Remember, you are not expected to have foreseen or dealt with risks that would be unreasonable for you to have known about.  Further, risk assessments are site-specific, so you cannot simply carry out one for all of your separate workplace environments, for example. 

How to Carry Out a Proper Risk Assessment

As outlined by the government website, here are the steps you should be taking to manage and identify risks in your workplace. 

Step 1: Identify Hazards 

First of all, you need to investigate and identify all hazards in your workplace. Hazards are things that may cause illness or harm to your workers. This could include any equipment, chemicals, substances, and work practices or processes that are used in the course of your business. This also extends to aspects of your business premises or workplace itself. 

This investigation should involve a visual inspection, but also discussions with your workers and a reflection on past incidents that may point to a pattern of harm caused by a consistent factor. 

Step 2: Assess Risks 

Having identified all risks, you should then assess the risk to determine how serious the hazard is, who may be harmed and how, and what you can do to control or eliminate this risk altogether. 

Part of this process is also putting together an action plan of how and when this risk will be addressed and by whom. 

Step 3: Control Risks 

Once you have put together a risk management framework, you must then implement your plan. This may involve changes to workflows or processes, replacing certain equipment or machinery, or providing certain protective gear to manage the risk at hand. 

Step 4: Record Findings

During your risk assessment, you must ensure that you record all your significant findings. This means writing down all the hazards that you have identified, the harm that they might cause and to who, and finally, what you are doing to manage these risks. 

Step 5: Review Controls 

Risk assessment is a continual and ongoing process. You are expected to be proactive about reviewing the controls you have put in place to ensure they are working effectively and protecting your workers from harm. If you make further changes or adjustments, you are required to continually update your risk assessment record.   

FAQs about Risk Assessments

1. What is the purpose of a risk assessment? 

Risk assessments are an integral part of identifying hazards in the workplace, taking reasonable and sufficient steps to address those hazards, and record that you have properly undertaken your legal responsibility as an employer. 

2. What does the law say about risk assessment? 

The law requires employers in the UK to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks to their employees in the workplace. 

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