Following the introduction of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations back in 1992, many employers are now familiar with the requirements of preparing risk assessments relating to their work activities, in order to help effectively manage their health and safety responsibilities.
However, for some it is treated as a paper exercise to demonstrate their legal compliance and once the risk assessments have been prepared then the documents are filed and no further action is taken.
Earlier this year a district judge was quoted “You can have the most wonderful risk assessments and policies in place but if they are not monitored and reviewed then they are worthless”.
This case related to an outdoor activity centre open to members of the public and which pleaded guilty to an offence under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. A visitor suffered a fractured hip whilst visiting the premises and the company was fined for failure to control, monitor and review health and safety policies and risk assessments.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in the workplace.
The assessment can help to identify which risks and control measures require more attention and determine next steps to lower the risk level as far as possible.
However, once the process is completed the risk assessment is required to be kept under review. Few workplaces remain the same and sooner or later changes such as new equipment or new procedures could lead to new hazards. Therefore, risk assessments require reviewing on an ongoing basis to check for:
Any significant changes
Any further improvements required
Problems identified by employees
Any accidents which highlight the need to improve arrangements
In any event, at least an annual review of risk assessments should be in place to ensure they remain valid.