16th June, 2022

9 Consequences Of Failing To Carry Out A Risk Assessment

You know you should do a risk assessment, but what happens if you fail to carry one out? What if you forget? Or didn't have the time? Here are 9 problems you might get from the failure to carry out a risk assessment.

9 Consequences Of Failing To Carry Out A Risk Assessment header image

Risk assessments are a legal requirement. But failing to do one can have bigger consequences than just breaking the law (if that wasn't bad enough already!).

In this blog post, we cover 9 consequences of failing to carry out a risk assessment, including:

  1. Increased risk of accidents
  2. Not being aware of hazards
  3. Not controlling the risks
  4. HSE investigations
  5. Enforcement action
  6. Emotional consequences
  7. Project delays
  8. Financial consequences
  9. Losing clients

1. Increased risk of accidents

Having a piece of paper isn't going to stop an accident. But a risk assessment is more than just a document - it's a process.

You end up with a document at the end of it, but the whole point is to work through the five steps of risk assessment and make your work safer.

And by thinking about the hazards and who could get hurt, you can plan how to protect them.

Failure to carry out a risk assessment means you might not have risks under control.

Maybe you have done the task hundreds of times before but in a different environment.

Maybe you've changed a tool.

Maybe you haven't changed anything, and you've just been lucky not to get hurt every time you've done the task before.

Or perhaps someone different is doing the task for the first time.

In any case, there could be new or uncontrolled risks. Failing to consider these risks means you (and your team) are more likely to have an accident.

injury being bandaged

2. Not being aware of hazards

As we said, a risk assessment document alone isn't going to prevent accidents. But the process of doing one gives you a much better chance of stopping accidents than not doing one.

And by having your risk assessment written down and shared with your team, you can communicate your findings.

This means that the hazards you spotted in step one of the risk assessment can be communicated with your team.

If you're not aware of the hazards, how do you know what could harm you or why you need to be protected?

What is a hazard? Find out in the definition of a hazard and 45 workplace examples.

3. Not controlling the risks

If you don't do a risk assessment, how do you know if you are controlling the risks?

You haven't assessed the task, so you don't know:

You might have some controls in place. You might think you are doing all the right things. And maybe no one has been hurt yet. But until you risk assess an activity, you can't be sure that you have all of the risks under control.

A risk is the chance that somebody could be harmed by the hazard. If you're not controlling risks, people can get hurt.

Maybe you're protecting the worker, but what about those nearby?

Maybe you've protected your team, but what about building occupants or members of the public?

Maybe it's safe now, but what about when the work area is cleaned, or you leave the site, or in an emergency?

The truth is, until you carry out your risk assessment, everything is just a maybe. And that's a risky place to be when people's safety is on the line.

broken cleaning sign

4. HSE investigations

The first consequence of failing to carry out a risk assessment was an increased risk of accidents. And if an accident does happen, especially a serious one, you might be investigated.

HSE inspectors have the power to visit any workplace, not just those that have had accidents. So you could be inspected randomly at any time.

But if you have an accident, this can make you more likely to be targeted for an inspection.

where we have information and intelligence that health and safety is a significant concern, such as:

  • previous performance
  • concerns raised by workers, the public or others
  • incident investigations
  • reports of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences

And if the HSE inspection finds that an accident is because you failed to carry out a risk assessment, you can expect enforcement action to follow.

5. Enforcement action

Risk assessments are a legal requirement. So if you fail to assess your work, you're breaking the law.

If the HSE inspect you and find that activities are not adequately risk assessed, they can (and do) issue enforcement action.

This enforcement action can include advice and cautions, and goes up to notices and prosecutions. The more serious the breach (and danger), the stronger the enforcement action is likely to be.

If you have had an accident, or people are at serious risk of injury, and you haven't carried out a risk assessment, then the HSE are likely to issue formal notices or even prosecute. And the fines can be massive.

A quick search of the HSE database shows some big fines (£910,000.00, £150,000.00, £132,000.00) for cases that involved failing to carry out a sufficient risk assessment.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the company's risk assessments for workplace transport were not suitable or sufficient. [...] Consequently, the company failed to implement appropriate measures to control that risk, including the provision of designated pedestrian walkways.

Even if the HSE don't prosecute, if they find any breaches (no matter how minor), they will charge you for the investigation time under what is known as Fee For Intervention.

person holding money

6. Emotional consequences

Those fines above might seem hefty, but that might not be the worse consequence of failing to do a risk assessment.

Most of us consider many of our colleagues at work to be friends or at least people we would not wish harm.

And we all have lives outside of work. Families. People that care about us. Hopes and dreams for the future.

But many HSE prosecutions involve severe or fatal injuries. Someone has been seriously hurt or killed.

Loved ones have lost a family member. Workers have lost a teammate. If the person survived, they need to recover from their injuries or adapt to them.

The people involved at work may have trauma from seeing the accident happen, wondering if they could have stopped it, and dealing with feelings of guilt and regret. People may blame themselves or others.

And the emotional trauma can last years or decades, especially for those who are injured, those that lose a close friend or family member, or people who feel to blame.

7. Project delays

By risk assessing your work, you can plan ahead. That means you know what you need to do the job and can reduce the risk of delays.

But remember how increased accidents were the first consequence on our list?

Well, accidents create delays.

If you have an accident on your site, people might need medical attention. If it's serious they may need to go to the hospital.

In addition to the emotional consequences, that's some lost productivity.

You probably plan your projects to have just the right amount of people on your site and don't have extra substitutes waiting on the bench ready to step in when someone gets injured.

So now you need to either wait for the person to recover from their injuries, or replace them.

And that takes time.

You might also need to investigate the accident. And as we discussed in consequence number 4, the HSE might too if it's serious.

Work might need to stop while an investigation happens. In addition to the damage to your reputation (see consequence 9), stopping work will also cause delays to your schedule.

calendar

8. Financial consequences

We've already covered HSE fines (and seen some pretty big ones!). But the financial consequences of failing to carry out a risk assessment don't just come from HSE prosecutions, and they don't only come from accidents either.

If you don't risk assess your work, you could be wasting money. Because, as we have said before, good health and safety can save you money!

Having risk assessments in place can help you win more work because clients want to see you take health and safety seriously. And it can help you identify improvements in the way you work.

By failing to do risk assessments, things go the other way. Your workers might leave if they don't feel safe, unsafe practices might create more errors and mistakes., and people have more near misses and accidents.

And all of these things cost your business money:

9. Losing clients

And finally, if you do not risk assessing, you're probably going to lose clients.

Most commercial clients will want to see evidence of risk assessments before you can even quote for the work. Or they require you to have some health and safety accreditation, which will require submission of risk assessments too.

And if you fail to carry out risk assessments, and all the consequences start to develop, like accidents, delays, fines, emotional and financial - your business reputation is going to take a hit.

People will avoid working with you if they think that it's going to hurt their business or project.

They might wonder if they will have delays or investigations during a project because of an accident. Or if your work might put their team in harm's way.


These are some of the consequences that could happen if you don't put risk assessments in place. But you probably do risk assess your work all time, without even realising it.

You probably think about a task, and how you can do it safely. If it's work you do regularly, it's probably second nature.

Once you have the right processes in place, you don't have to spend hours and hours on paperwork. Here's how you can write a risk assessment in 5 minutes.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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