Risk Assessments in the Workplace

Duty of the employer to carry out a risk assessment of the working environment

The duty of care owed by employers to employees means that employers must carry out a risk assessment of the working environment to minimise the risks of accidents at work. This assessment incorporates a number of steps to make the working environment as safe as possible.

  • Firstly, the employer must identify possible hazards which could result in an accident at work. A hazard is something which could cause harm to an employee or visitor to the site. This could be anything from a piece of unsafe equipment to a pile of paper left lying on the floor.
  • Secondly, the employer must look at the hazard and assess who is at risk of having an accident at work. Employers should check if it is a particular group of employees who are at risk of harm - night shift workers, pregnant women etc.
  • Thirdly, the employer must assess the level of possible harm to employees. When doing this they should take into account possible injuries which could be sustained and the consequences resulting from the injury.
  • Finally, the employer should examine the current precautions in place to prevent an accident at work from occurring. Where needed, improvements to the working environment must be made to minimise the risk of an accident at work, such as providing new equipment and training for employees.

Employers must remember that the duty to carry out risk assessment is a continual process. If a new task arises or the working environment changes in any way, the employer must carry out a new risk assessment incorporating the steps mentioned above.

The law and risk assessment

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 employers must carry out "suitable and sufficient" risk assessments which should show that:

  • proper checks were completed
  • enquiries as to 'who might be affected' were made
  • all the obvious and significant risks were dealt with and the number of people who could potentially be involved was taken into account
  • precautions are reasonable and any remaining risk is low
  • workers and their representatives were involved in the risk assessment process

Risk assessments should be proportionate to the level of risk involved. The law allows for activities routinely associated with life in general not to be included in a risk assessment - unless the work in some way alters the associated risk.

Employers are not expected to anticipate or assess for unforeseeable risks.

Contact Thompsons today for work accident claim advice

If you have had an accident at work within the last three years and you think your employer had not carried out an adequate risk assessment, contact our expert No Win No Fee lawyers for free claims advice on 0800 0891331.

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