The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires that employers and duty holders ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all employees, volunteers and the general public. A similar requirement also extends to those who are not employed but may be affected by the employer's activities.
The risk assessment process is a statutory obligation covered under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR 1999). MHSWR 1999 reinforces the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by placing a further legal duty on employers to assess and manage the risks to employees and others to prevent work-related illness and accidents. The regulations state that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health and safety to which their employees are exposed at work. Every employer must also make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of anyone not in their employment arising from, or in connection with, the employer's conduct.
Risk assessment records provide a demonstrable assessment of the hazards and risks and the controls taken for minimising or eliminating the identified hazards. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the local authority may request to see physical evidence of these following any accidents or reports of ill health on your premises or during spot checks, which have become more common following the COVID-19 outbreak.
As far as reasonably practicable
Employers must make a balanced decision about the hazard and the likely severity of risk and the consequences or outcome of doing nothing balanced against the time, inconvenience and financial costs of controlling or removing the risk.
A reasonable and considered decision taken by employers can be demonstrated by undertaking a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and considering the relevant legislation, approved codes of practice (ACOP), guidance notes and any concerns raised by employees, volunteers or others who may be affected.
Safe Systems of Work (SSOW)
Sometimes referred to as Method Statements, Safe Systems of Work is a requirement of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and is intended to provide those who are carrying out the work with the necessary information to undertake the job safely.
Providing a safe system of work with the risk assessment and sharing it with employees and volunteers prior to any work seen as significantly hazardous, such as working at height, provides a prescriptive method in which a task or activity should be safely carried out to further mitigate against injury and accidents. A SSOW is provided in the templates and documents section below.
Any hazards or activities that are considered to still have a residual risk element that cannot be fully eliminated or guarded against in the risk assessment process is capable of leading to a significant injury or risk to health and safety.
A common example of this in a church environment might be working at height to carry out building maintenance, inspections, or simply changing lightbulbs.
Suitable and sufficient
The legislation does not provide a definition of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. The HSE suggests that a risk assessment is suitable and sufficient if:
- You have properly identified all the current and likely hazards in the workplace
- You have identified, consulted with and confirmed who might be affected
- Your risk assessment deals with all the obvious significant risks, considers all the persons likely to be affected, and considers if a SSOW is required for the task or activity to further mitigate against injury or accidents to employees, volunteers and the general public
- The control measures and mitigations identified are suitable and proportionate and can be implemented to either eliminate or significantly reduce the identified risk
- You have involved your employees/volunteers and anyone else who might be affected in the risk-assessment process.
The level of detail in a risk assessment should be proportionate to the risk and appropriate to the nature of the work and activities being assessed. Insignificant risks can often be ignored, as can risks arising from routine activities associated with life in general, unless the work activity significantly alters those risks. (Source: HSE 2017).