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As a part of managing the health and safety of your employees you have a duty to control the risks present in your workplace. In order to achieve this you need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether or not you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm; simply taking this step is the most basic form of a risk assessment.

Risk assessments are not about creating vast amounts of paperwork; in fact if your company has fewer than five employees you do not have a legal obligation to have anything written down – however you must be able to prove that you have thought through and ideally discussed any elements of risk, and identified how to minimise the chance of anyone being harmed in any way. The law does not expect all risks to be removed, but that measures are put in place to control the risks so far as reasonably practicable. Your risk assessment need only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks. For most businesses controlling risk is fairly straightforward; the HSE has an online risk assessment tool which can be found on their website.

How to assess risk in the workplace

A good place to start is to walk around your place of work and identify any hazards that have the capacity to cause harm to anyone. It should be noted that you have not only a responsibility to the employees, but to any visitors, contractors or members of the public who may find themselves within the place of work. Think about how accidents could happen and who might be harmed, but concentrate on the real risks; the ones most likely to cause harm. Once you have identified any potentially dangerous areas, you should record your findings and look into how the risks can be managed and what appropriate measures can be put in place. Don’t forget that as time passes, things may change around your workplace and any risk assessment must take these changes into account; for example if you have a change around in the layout of the workplace, or if you install new equipment.

What happens when risks aren’t identified?

Not identifying risks, or failing to address the needs of employees are signs of a lacklustre approach to health and safety that sadly often goes hand in hand with a poor safety record. Even if accidents haven’t yet happened, it is likely that they will be more likely in the absence of proper risk management. If you’re concerned about the level of risk in your workplace you should contact the HSE. If you have been injured due to poor health and safety management then you should contact one of our solicitors to see if you could claim for compensation.