If you are looking for a simple yes or no answer here, the answer is yes, risk assessments are a legal requirement.
At least, they are a legal requirement at work.
The regulations that specifically make risk assessments a legal requirement are the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR).
In fact, risk assessment is so important it has its own section under the MHSWR. Section 3.
It is the law under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) that every employer and self-employed shall carry out a risk assessment of any risks to the health and safety of employees or other persons.
(1) Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of—
(a)the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
(b)the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking …
(2) Every self-employed person shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of—
(a)the risks to his own health and safety to which he is exposed whilst he is at work; and
(b)the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking
So, risk assessments are a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person, and they must assess the risks not only to those they employ, but also the risks to anyone else who may be affected by the work activities.
The regulations go further in that any employer employing over 5 or more employees must record (a)the significant findings of the assessment; and (b)any group of his employees identified by it as being especially at risk..
Even if you employ less than 5 employees you may be required to have a written record of your risk assessment since, you may need to supply it to clients or other stakeholders, and communicate the finding to employees.
Having the risk assessment written down is really the only way you can show you have done one, and will often be required for health and safety accreditations and pre-qualification questionnaires, especially in higher risk industries.
So what format does a risk assessment need to follow to comply with the MHSWR?
While risk assessments are required by law, the MHSWR does not necessarily specify how to carry one out, just that the assessment of risks must be done. It is a good idea to follow the 5 steps to risk assessment, to make sure your risk assessment is sufficient.
Need help with your risk assessments? We have a large library of risk assessment templates you can edit and use for your business activities.