As we have previously discussed, risk assessments are required by law, so it is important that they are carried out. But when should a risk assessment be carried out? Do you need to risk an activity once, before you do it for the first time? Every time you do the task? Risk assess it again every year, or less, or more often?
Let’s take a look at what the regulations say.
(1) Every employer (and (2) self-employed person) 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 …
Looking at this requirement, a risk assessment should be carried out to make an assessment of the risk arising from work activities. Carrying out a risk assessment is one of your health and safety responsibilities as an employer, so it's important to get it right.
The work you do needs to be risk assessed. That's the requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR). To make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks employees and others are exposed to as a result of your work.
If you’re starting a new activity or process that has not been risk assessed, it makes sense that a risk assessment must be carried out to assess these risks and the controls needed. In this situation, a risk assessment should be carried out before you start the task.
As part of managing the health and safety of your business, you must control the risks in your workplace. To do this you need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This is known as risk assessment and it is something you are required by law to carry out.
By risk assessing the work, you can create a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks employees and other people are exposed to. Complying with the legal requirement under the MHSWR.
What about if your work activity changes or a new process is used? What if the activity is carried out in a new environment with new challenges and hazards? What if new technology is introduced? New materials or substances?
It is possible that some hazards and risks may have been eliminated. But new ones may also have been introduced. Those risks have not been assessed. And some of the assessment may no longer be relevant.
And, since every employer and self-employed person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks, those new risks also need to be assessed. Otherwise, the risk assessment you carried out before may no longer be 'suitable and sufficient'. Because it doesn't address the new circumstances.
A risk assessment should be carried out for any activity or change to an activity that may have introduced new risks.
What about if the people carrying out the work change? As the name suggests, a risk assessment is needed to assess risks. This is so controls can be put in place to reduce the risk and protect the health and safety of the workforce and anyone else who is likely to be exposed to those risks. If different people or groups of people become involve this may introduce new people that are at risk.
If the person is exposed is perhaps a young or inexperienced worker, disabled, pregnant or vulnerable, then the existing risk assessment may not be suitable and sufficient for that person.
You should also consider if a new risk assessment should be carried out, or at least reviewed when the type of person carrying out the activity changes. After all, step 2 in the 5 steps of risk assessment is to consider who might be harmed and how.
There can be other factors that might mean you need to carry out a new risk assessment, or at least review your current one.
Reasons for this can include:
We have already covered how significant changes might lead to needing a new risk assessment, but when you review your risks assessments, there are a number of factors to consider.
Find out more in our blog post how often do you need to review a risk assessment?
Even if the way you work stays the same, health and safety law is always evolving. New regulations come into force, and old regulations are updated or removed. These changes might reflect new ways of working, tighter controls, or new knowledge.
Or perhaps several near misses might alert you to a problem with the task. Maybe one of the control measures isn't quite working how it should. Or users need better training to carry the work out correctly.
If the risk levels change significantly, or if the existing risk assessment is no longer suitable and sufficient, then a new risk assessment should be carried out.
Need help with your risk assessments? We have a large library of risk assessment templates you can edit and use for your business activities.