Why It's Always Important You Carry Out A Risk Assessment header image

8th May, 2018

Why It's Always Important You Carry Out A Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a document that most people at work (even those that don't work in health and safety) have heard of.

Let's discuss why it's always important to carry one out.

You might think it's important to carry out a risk assessment, because it is a legal requirement, and you would be right. But that's not the only reason. Or even the most important one.

There are lots of reasons why it's important to carry out a risk assessment, and it should be more than just a box-ticking exercise. Your business, and peoples lives, can depend on it.

Why are risk assessments important?

Risk assessments are important because they help you to:

  • Spot hazards
  • Think about the potential harm
  • Identify people who may be at risk
  • Protect the people at risk
  • Plan the work safely
  • Review existing controls
  • Make improvements
  • Comply with the law

Don't just do your risk assessment to comply with the law. It's a mistake many businesses make, and they lose sight of the really important reasons to risk assess.

You should carry out a risk assessment to keep you and your team safe, and to make sure everyone finishes the job in one piece. Sounds simple, but taking it back to basics, that's what a risk assessment is. A way to keep you safe.

In fact, if we look at the 5 steps to risk assessment, we can see that those 5 steps outline some of the most reasons from the list above.

The importance of the 5 steps

It's not just important to carry out a risk assessment, but that your risk assessment is 'suitable and sufficient'. The HSE outlined 5 steps that should be followed in the risk assessment process.

In step one, you should be looking for anything that may cause harm, in other words, spotting hazards.

After that, in step 2, you should be deciding who might be harmed and how. How could those hazards harm people, and who might they harm? This could be workers, visitors, the public etc.

In step 3 we need to assess the risks we have identified, and take action. This is planning how the work can be completed safely, including any controls needed and further action to make sure people are protected.

It's only once we get to step 4 that we need to record our risk assessment findings. But some people skip right ahead to this point and start writing their risk assessment without giving much consideration to the first 3 steps.

haspod risk assessment editor
Creating a risk assessment on HASpod

This is what we usually find when a business is only creating risk assessments because they are a legal requirement, and not thoroughly understanding why they are important.

But actually, if you just have a written risk assessment, but haven't gone through each of the steps, then it's not likely to comply with the law at all.

After all, the law isn't to have any old risk assessment document in place. The legal requirement is to have a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in place.

You can use our free risk assessment template to create your document!

And finally, step 5, review the risk assessment. Still using a risk assessment someone completed 6 years ago? It's probably time for an update!

Don't forget, one of the reasons risk assessments are important is to make improvements.

Things change, people change, and new data and best practices develop over time.

What happens if you don't carry out a risk assessment?

Why are all these things important? Because no business can survive that harms its workers.

Any gaps in your risk assessment process and going to leave a portion of your work activities open to risks.

These risks can harm people, and also the business.

Think about just some of the consequences of failing to control risks, and harming your people (and others) through your business activities:

Cost of replacing staff. You are going to have to replace the people that are off work injured or ill.

Sickness pay. The people off work injured or ill need to be paid.

Compensation. Where there's blame, there's a claim.

Legal cases. You can expect a knock on the door from the HSE if it's shown that you are not complying with health and safety laws.

Fines. The fee for intervention charges will start racking up as soon as the HSE find fault, and that's even if they don't decide to prosecute.

Increased insurance costs. Businesses regularly paying out fines or having claims against them will see insurance costs rise.

Low staff morale. If workers are put at risk, in bad work conditions, friends and colleagues injured, you can bet moral will be low.

High turnover. Staff leaving through sickness, injury or simply looking for a safer place to work.

When is it important to carry out a risk assessment?

Risk assessments should always be carried out. It is a legal requirement that risk assessments are carried out for all of your activities, and these assessments should cover all of the risks people are exposed to while at work and as a result of the work.

Now we have looked at why it's always important to carry out a risk assessment, it should be fairly obvious what whenever there is a risk, there needs to be a risk assessment.

If you're thinking at this point, hold on, I employ less than 5 people, doesn't that make me exempt? It doesn't, you still need to do a risk assessment, you just don't legally need to keep a written record.

It is a legal requirement for every employer.

3.—(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,

It is also a legal requirement for every self-employed person.

(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,

Always needing to risk assess might seem overwhelming at first, but remember earlier when we said that risk assessments should be suitable and sufficient? That means you can use a bit of common sense here.

If you have low-risk activities in your business, with only a few hazards that are unlikely to cause any serious harm, your risk assessment does not need to be long or complex. Your controls are probably going to be cheap and easy to implement.

haspod risk assessment calculator
Calculating risks on HASpod

You can use our free risk assessment calculator to check if a hazard is high or low risk.

You should focus more of your efforts on higher risk activities, as a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for these activities is likely to be more in depth, with tighter controls.

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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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