Risk assessments are an initial and vital step in the process of health and safety compliance. Organisations must comply with UK health and safety law in order to protect their employees, work associates and customers. Risk assessments are a vital part of this procedure as they not only identify all possible hazards within the workplace, but subsequently allow employers to implement the appropriate control measures to protect individuals. If risk assessments are not carried out, an employer can be held liable for injury and this can be financially crippling as well as tarnishing the organisation's reputation.
Risk assessments ultimately identify hazards within the workplace, and this compels the employer to implement control measures to protect employees, work associates and customers from these hazards. The importance of risk assessments lies within the fact they at least prove that an employer has attempted to protect all individuals within the workplace. Of course, not all incidents can be prevented, but a risk assessment is the appropriate documented proof that an employer has actively assessed the workplace to protect against hazards.
What will happen to an employer if they do not conduct a risk assessment?
It is an employer's responsibility to conduct a risk assessment, therefore if they do not, it will be the employer who will be liable for injury and could face charges of negligence. To conduct a risk assessment, no matter how much of a slight hassle it may seem, it will always cost you less than if you do not conduct a risk assessment and then find your organisation in the case of a lawsuit.
In June 2018 the Royal Opera House were in the midst of a health and safety dispute following claims that the organisation had caused hearing damage to a viola player who was a part of the Covent Garden Orchestra. The case was instigated by Chris Goldscheider, the viola player part of the Covent Garden Orchestra, a regular player at the Royal Opera House. Goldscheider's complaint came following his positioning in front of the brass section, during a rehearsal in which the noise levels were way too high. This resulted in Goldscheider's hearing being completely damaged and could not be cured as a result.
The Royal Opera House was subject to the fine of £750,000 in compensation, in addition to the legal costs. In June 2018 it was decided by Mrs Justice Davies that the Royal Opera House had conducted an inadequate risk assessment, which had not taken into consideration any monitoring of the noise levels. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 states that employers must carry out risk assessments to monitor noise levels in the workplace, something which the Royal Opera House had not conducted effectively. Thus, it was considered to be a failure by the management team.
The importance of risk assessment rests in the fact that this process aims to protect all individuals in a workplace and ensure the workplace is a safe area. This explains why it is considered to be such an offence and breach of legislation for an employer not to conduct a risk assessment properly. Therefore, training and knowledge of effective risk assessments is essential.