The legal status of risk assessments is a subject that can cause a little confusion among some businesses. Often, a risk assessment can be perceived as a box-ticking exercise, but the ramifications of failing to carry one out correctly can be serious. 

In this blog post, we’re going to explore the essential aspects of risk assessments, and how they’re not just good practice, but also a legal requirement. We’ll break down the legal obligations, consequences of non-compliance, and, of course, how HS Direct can make your life easier in ensuring your risk assessments are legally sound. 

What is the legal requirement for risk assessments?

The laws and regulations surrounding risk assessments are in place to champion the safety of individuals in the workplace. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is one of the cornerstones of Health & Safety legislation in the UK, and it places a legal duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of their employees.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also emphasise the need for risk assessments. These regulations require employers to systematically identify and manage risks, and make sure that appropriate measures are in place to control those risks.

As well as these two primary pieces of legislation, various other regulations may be relevant to your specific industry or work activities. These can be complex, and it’s crucial to understand how they apply to your business. 

Why do we have risk assessments in the workplace? 

The answer is simple – risk assessments are crucial for identifying and controlling risk. There are hundreds of different types of risk assessments, and each one is tailored to the industry or work that is being carried out. Preventing risk can take several forms. 

Completing eliminating hazards isn’t always practical for a business, but a risk assessment can highlight the best course of action to take. Hazards take many forms, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach that you can take. Factors such as the use of equipment, proximity of machinery, different working environments and the use of certain products. 

What consequences might my business face? 

The consequences can be significant and damaging to your business, as well as the safety of your employees and others. Without a risk assessment that is valid, in-date and frequently reviewed, gaps in your Health and Safety measures can soon be exposed. If an employee is a victim of a serious injury, you will be held legally liable. Governing bodies will look for evidence that your business has made every effort to implement adequate control measures following a risk assessment. 

Being a responsible employer means staying compliant and reducing the chance of being held liable should the worst happen. Let’s take a look at some examples of how businesses can suffer as a result. 

Accidents at work

Without proper risk assessments, the likelihood of accidents and incidents in your workplace increases. This not only affects the well-being of your employees but can also lead to employees needing time off work, increased insurance costs, compensation costs and a loss of productivity. 

Fines and legal action

Non-compliance with risk assessment requirements can lead to hefty fines and legal action. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has the authority to investigate and penalise non-compliant businesses. Fines can vary greatly, and the consequences can be severe. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.

Lowers reputation

Failing to uphold legal risk assessment requirements can severely damage your company’s reputation. Word gets around, and potential customers, employees, and partners might steer clear of a business with a poor safety track record.

Stay compliant with support from HS Direct

Risk assessments can be challenging and overwhelming, not to mention the pressure of getting them right – but the good news is, you don’t have to navigate it on your own. HS Direct is here to lend a helping hand and make your life easier when it comes to risk assessments. We offer a range of services and solutions to make sure that your business is legally compliant and, more importantly, safe for everyone involved.

  • We’ve got hundreds of risk assessment templates available to download right away – so you can be sure you’re getting your risk assessments right.
  • With the help of our expert people, you’ll never need to worry about your risk assessments being legally compliant again – and you can get peace of mind that you’re avoiding financial and reputational costs
  • With our smart Health and Safety software solution, Safety First, you can get one place to create, store and edit your risk assessments all in one place. You’ll also get access to hundreds of risk assessment templates. 
  • Check out our extensive guide to risk assessments, a handy online resource packed full of useful information to help you understand the topic in greater detail.