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Why it's important to assess health and safety risks

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
25th May 2019
Health and Safety in the Workplace

In a nutshell there are two compelling reasons why it's important for an employer to assess health and safety risks in the workplace:

  1. Because you want your employees, customers and visitors to be safe and healthy
  2. Because you would be breaking the law if you failed to conduct an assessment.

What you need to assess 

 The next question is how thorough does your assessment need to be? The precise wording of the The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 makes it clear that you can't afford to make a cursory assessment. It must be "suitable and sufficient". In particular it should show that you:

  • Made a proper check
  • Established who might be affected
  • Dealt with all the obvious significant risks
  • Took into account the number of people who could be involved
  • Put reasonable precautions in place, so that the remaining risk is low
  • Involved your workers or their representatives in the process.

How much detail must you go into? 

The regulations go on to state that the level of detail in a risk assessment should be proportionate to the risk and appropriate to the nature of the work. In line with the Health and Safety at Work Act's concept of protecting people "as far as is reasonably practicable", insignificant risks and the everyday risks involved in living a normal life can usually be ignored. Unless the work activity in question significantly alters those risks. 

You're not expected to know the future 

On the same principle, the risk assessment should only include what you could reasonably be expected to know. No-one is expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks. However you are obliged to assess the risk to everyone, not just employees. According to the regulations, "every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of: 

(a)the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and 

(b)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 undertakings".   

Training is key 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require employers to train staff so that they know:

  • What hazards and risks they may face
  • How to deal with them
  • Any emergency procedures.

Some employees may have particular training needs, for example new recruits or young employees.

So if your health and safety assessment indicates that staff training is required, the expert Phoenix team is here to provide authoritative advice and help you find the ideal course. Ask us anything at any time.