Health and safety regs set out legal requirements for employers to make suitable risk assessments. It’s not as easy as it sounds…

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, every employer has a duty to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks its employees are exposed to and take reasonable measures to control them.

Risk assessments are not only an important tool in protecting your workers and your business, they are also a legal requirement. So how good are your risk assessments? Try this simple test (answer yes or no):

1 We have made a systematic examination of all hazards in the workplace, including those arising from work locations, activities, plant and equipment.

2 Our risk assessments take into account people other than our own employees who may be harmed by the hazard.

3 Our risk assessments include both routine and non-routine work activities.

4 We have made a record of significant findings.

5 We review our risk assessments at least every 12 months to ensure they remain valid.

6 An accident or incident will automatically trigger a review of the relevant risk assessment to see how it can be improved.

The preventative measures taken to ameliorate risks follow the general principles of prevention as required by law.

8 My organisation has appointed one or more competent person to help it comply with the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

9 Every employee has been provided with comprehensive and relevant information on the risks to their health and safety as identified by the assessments.

10 Records are maintained to show such information has been acknowledged and understood.

Risk assessments are not only an important tool in protecting your workers, they are also a legal requirement.

Now, how well did you do?

If you answered yes to every question it’s likely that your risk assessment procedures are fit for purpose. Keep up the good work and remember the triggers that invite you to review your assessments.

All or some no and it’s back to basics, I’m afraid: you need an overhaul of your procedures.

Behind each question lurks a specific regulatory requirement and for the moment you are possibly vulnerable. Here are some tips for complying with risk assessment procedures.

A starting point is to make a list of all hazards that exist in your workplace. Don’t forget about people other than employees who may be harmed through your work undertaking (contractors, visitors, members of the public, children and even trespassers).

Many risk assessments fall short, as they only consider risks associated with normal operations but not exceptional work such as maintenance, cleaning and setting up machinery.

The regulations explicitly require that any employer employing five or more people shall record the “significant findings of the assessment, and any group of his employees identified by it as being especially at risk”.

Principles of prevention are contained under regulation four, schedule one. You should be able to prove you that have considered more effective risk-control measures before relying upon less-effective measures, such as personal protective equipment.

You must appoint a competent person to advise you who possesses the necessary experience, knowledge, qualifications and understanding of your working practices and will keep you abreast of legal and best practice developments. This appointment can be someone from outside the company.

You must provide your employees with information relevant to the risks to their health and safety. Methods of relaying such information include training courses, toolbox talks, on-the-job training, hard copy procedures, bulletins and IT systems.

Finally, you need to prove that the preventive measures you’ve identified and compiled have been passed on to those who really need to know about them. Records of training and dissemination are vital.