What is the Purpose of a Risk Assessment?

The purpose of a risk assessment is to ensure that a workplace is safe to work in and all individuals involved are appropriately protected from hazards. The process of a risk assessment involves firstly identifying hazards within a work place, and then subsequently implementing control measures.

Employers have the responsibility to ensure that the workplace which is used by their employees, work associates and customers, is safe enough to work in. Risk assessments have the purpose of ensuring that the workplace is a safe place through a process of checks and balances. A risk assessment brings to light all hazards in the workplace and protects employees from these hazards by implementing control measures.

Risk assessments have the purpose of effectively ensuring four aspects of health and safety requirements are maintained:

1) Risk assessments allow the prevention of occupational risks

2) Risk assessments provide information to employees, work associates and customers which otherwise would not have been circulated around the workplace. This is because risk assessments highlight hazards and inform individuals of how these hazards have been effectively managed, to ensure individuals they are safe within their workplace.

3) Risk assessment training will allow individuals in the workplace to be thoroughly educated and trained in their workplace’s health and safety procedures.

4) Risk assessments will ultimately help an organisation to comply with health and safety requirements. Risk assessments will create a culture of health and safety compliance as it demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to safety and protection. This will subsequently relay a message to employees and customers to comply and maintain this health and safety standard.

If a risk assessment is not carried out, then the repercussions can be severe. For example, if an employee is injured within your workplace due to them dealing with a hazardous chemical substance when they have not been protected with necessary protective wear, the employer will be held responsible. The employer may be faced with fines of negligence and this can be crippling.

Therefore, to avoid severe repercussions, it is always wise to train your staff in risk assessments and management. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK have published the necessary steps involved within a risk assessment.

What will happen if a risk assessment is not carried out by an employer?

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, states in its Regulation 3 the necessity of conducting risk assessments. Failure to carry out a risk assessment, which has the purpose of maintaining safety in the workplace, will leave the employer liable for injury. An employer can be accused of being negligent, or for breaching their statutory duties.

The UK case of Kennedy v Cordia (Services) LLP, exposed an employer being held liable for the injury of one of their employees in December 2010 in Glasgow. Miss Kennedy was a home care provider, visiting individual people’s houses, whilst being employed by Cordia (Services) LLP. However, the risk assessment carried out by Cordia (Services) LLP did not take into account the footpath by one of Kennedy’s house visits, which was icy and resulted in Miss Kennedy slipping and injuring herself. This incident took place following weeks of bad winter conditions, yet the employer carried out a risk assessment which categorised the risk of slips or trips as ‘tolerable’.

Following Kennedy’s incident the case was taken to court and Kennedy’s employer was found guilty of breaching the Management Regulations and the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992. It was ruled that the employer had not considered providing its employees with protective equipment following some similar incidents which had occurred previously.

It is clear that as an employer you must ensure the purpose of a risk assessment is achieved and upheld in order to protect the workplace.

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