What is Risk Assessment?

What is Risk Assessment | What, When and Why for Health and Safety

What is Risk Assessment?

A health and safety risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what could cause harm to people. This helps identify the actions you need to take to prevent injury and ill-health.

Watch the start of our Risk Assessment Training video for a short summary…

The complexity of a risk assessment can vary significantly, but the real skill is in making complex subjects simple to understand.

Equally, people’s perception of what makes a good or bad risk assessment is a spectrum of opinion and debate.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of good reasons that we should risk assessment for our business, including moral, legal and of course, financial. 

What is Risk Assessment? | Safeti

In reality, the Health and Safety Executive in the UK clearly states that risk assessments should not be unnecessarily complicated and only focus on the significant hazards – this makes sense, because you have to be able to effectively communicate the outcomes of them.

Do not just copy an example and put your company name to it as that would not satisfy the law and would not protect your employees. You must think about the specific hazards and controls your business needs.

Are Risk Assessments mandatory?

 In the UK, your obligation as an employer is that you must risk assess the work activities that your employees are involved.

If you have 5 or more employees, you have to keep a record of any risk assessment that you have done. 

In many countries, including the Ireland, the United States and Australia, workplace risk assessment is part of the national health and safety regulations and that makes risk assessments mandatory.

Why Risk Assessments are Important

If you don’t carry out a risk assessment for your work activities, you leave your employees and your business at risk of significant loss. This can manifest in a myriad of ways, including very substantial direct costs, fines, loss of insurance cover and even severe criminal charges and custodial sentences.

If we take an example from the Health and Safety Management at Work regulations in the UK, it clearly stipulates following;

Risk assessment

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,

Free Risk Assessment Training

Now we’ve answered the ‘What is risk assessment’ question, you may be interested in our free Risk Assessment Training course.

Online enrolment is open to unlimited users, just register on the Course page to enrol.

Let’s look at some real examples of severe events that have happened recently, where lack of suitable and sufficient risk assessment contributed to an accident that caused serious injury or fatality in the UK.

What is Risk Assessment? | Real Examples

June 2022

Carlsberg fined £3m following 2016 ammonia gas leak

Carlsberg has been fined £3 million after a contractor died and another was seriously injured following an ammonia gas leak at one of its breweries.

Father-of-two David Chandler, 45, was killed and David Beak, now 57, was seriously injured. Twenty people needed hospital checks after showing symptoms of ammonia exposure.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that at its Northampton brewery Carlsberg had failed to put in place appropriate isolation controls to prevent exposure to ammonia before work started to remove a compressor from a refrigeration system.

On 9 November 2016 while the compressor was being removed, there was a large, uncontrolled release of ammonia.

Health and Safety Prosecutions Risk Assessment

Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company, pleaded guilty to charges under Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and Regulation 3(1) [Risk Assessment] of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The company was fined £3 million with costs of £90,000.

May 2022

Sea food processing company fined after fatality involving forklift

A sea food processing company has been fined after a worker died following injuries sustained when she was run over by a forklift.

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on 31 January 2018, that Karen Allen’ an employee of QA Fish Ltd suffered significant leg injuries as a pedestrian, following a vehicular collision in Scalloway, Shetland.

A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Police Scotland found that no site-specific workplace transport risk assessment had been carried out.

Health and Safety Prosecutions Forklift

The company failed to implement effective arrangements for the management of health and safety and also failed to act on the advice of a health and safety consultant several years prior to the incident.

QA Fish Ltd of Blacksness Pier, Shetland have pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined £80,000, to be paid within 12 months.

The HSE commented that the accident ‘should have been prevented via suitable and sufficient control measures segregating pedestrians from vehicle movements‘.

March 2022

Spring manufacturer sentenced after worker severs fingers

A spring manufacturing company has been fined after an employee had two fingers of his right hand severed whilst attempting to lubricate a bandsaw.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how on 2 October 2019, a labourer employed by Hanson Springs Ltd in Rochdale was assisting in the cutting back department to cut sections of steel spring using a vertical bandsaw when the blade began to smoke and squeal.

Health and Safety Prosecutions UK

The worker decided to replace the blade, as on inspection it appeared heavily worn. He attempted to lubricate the new blade, by pressing a cardboard tube of wax onto the exposed section of it whilst it ran. The tube was drawn in, in turn drawing in the worker’s hand, severing the middle two fingers at the first and second knuckle respectively.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that although the worker had received training from the supervisor in using the machine, it was of poor quality, no formal competency assessment had been carried out, nor was he certain that he could use the machine unsupervised.

Furthermore, despite lubrication of the blades in this manner being standard practice within the company, it was unnecessary as the machine was self-lubricating.

Health and Safety Prosecutions 2022

Hanson Springs Ltd of Hanson Place, Gorrells Way, Rochdale, Lancashire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,394.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Lennon said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided. “Employers should ensure they carry out an assessment of the risks and put in safe system of works for the operation of all machinery.

Access our free online Risk Assessment Training here.

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