What is a risk assessment?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSEsays: "A risk assessment is nothing more than a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people."

Employers have a duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to carry out risk assessments to identify what hazards exist in a workplace, and how likely these hazards are to cause harm. They must then decide what prevention or control measures are needed.

How should employers carry out a risk assessment?

Employers must follow the HSE's advice set out in Risk Assessment – a brief guide to controlling risks in the workplace (PDF, 226KB).They should not only walk around the workplace and inspect for any hazards, but consult you about the hazards you face and liaise with recognised safety reps when carrying out a risk assessment.

Who should carry out a risk assessment?

Your employer.  But the person nominated to take charge of health and safety where you work must be a 'competent person'.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 define a competent person as someone with 'sufficient knowledge and experience' to do the job properly.

Where a union is recognised, employers must consult with safety reps as part of the risk assessment.

Employers are responsible for carrying out the assessment, and for any steps that they need to take to eliminate or control risk. Sometimes safety reps are asked to sign risk assessments as the competent person. This is not appropriate. Risk assessments should only be signed by management or the workplace safety officer.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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