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Risk assessments

Risk assessment should underpin all health and safety decisions.In very simple terms it means to look at a work situation or activity, to ask what could go wrong and how that might be prevented and then to put sensible controls in place. The findings of a risk assessment should also be used to help develop health and safety policy.

Legal requirements

The explicit duty, on both employers and the self employed to carry out risk assessments, is contained in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. They are required to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:

  • the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work
  • 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, for the purpose of identifying the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions.”

Certain topic specific regulations expand on this duty identifying particular matters to be considered. For example, in relation to: hazardous substances, asbestos, manual handling, display screen equipment.

Young persons (under 18 years)

Young persons are not to be employed unless a specific assessment has been made of the risks to them.

New and expectant mothers

A specific risk assessment is required for new or expectant mothers, as some tasks (heavy lifting or work with chemicals for example) may not be appropriate.

Record of assessment

Significant findings of an assessment must be recorded if 5 or more people are employed. However, in all cases it is good practice to record the outcome of any assessment that identifies significant risks; it is a positive way of showing commitment to safe working.

Duty to review

Whilst it is good practice to review all assessments every year or so, an assessment must be reviewed if there is any reason to suspect its validity, and in the event of a significant change in the work place, or in the way activities are done.

Circumstances that should trigger a review include

  • A serious accident or near miss.
  • A pattern of accidents or near misses.
  • Introduction of new equipment.
  • Process changes.
  • New information about a relevant hazard.

Related content

HSE website