The importance of Risk Assessments

Health and safety rules can often feel like an inconvenience, but in reality they are there to protect us and those around us.Statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in July reported that 144 workers in Great Britain were killed while at work in 2015-2016. This begs the question: was there a suitable risk assessment in place?

A risk assessment is not only an important step in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment, it is a legal requirement. It needs to be conducted before employees complete work on current, new or unknown parts, processes or materials. You must consider the possible causes of harm and what steps to take in preventing the harm in the first place. If your business has fewer than 5 employees, you don’t have to document anything but you must have considered hazards and control measures.

A good risk assessment will help to prevent accidents and ill health. These not only have the potential to ruin lives, but they could also increase costs to businesses through lost output, compensation claims and higher insurance premiums. With the Health and Safety Authority reporting just under 60 work-related fatalities in Ireland alone last year, the importance of safety in the workplace is more important than ever.

As already discussed in our previous blog, sentencing guidelines are now stricter than ever in tackling health and safety legislation breaches. So with this in mind, why risk something going wrong? We discuss risk assessments in more detail below.

Before we start, it’s crucial to note that contrary to popular belief, spotting potential hazards by conducting a risk assessment is not a way of stopping people from doing things, rather it identifies ways of enabling people to do things in a safe manner.

Protect yourself and your colleagues

There are no set rules on how to conduct a risk assessment and the good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. The general steps to take are:

  • Identify any hazards
  • Decide who could be harmed and how
  • Evaluate the risks and consider controls
  • Record the findings and implement them
  • Are reasonably practicable control measures in place?
  • Review your risk assessment every year

When carrying out a risk assessment, we must remember that one size doesn’t fit all. While risk assessments form the foundation of every organisation, each business’ risk will differ. However, if you work in retail, hospitality or catering, just some of the many risk assessments you may need in place include:

COSHH, PPE, Work at Height, New and Expectant Mothers, Young Persons, Manual Handling, Stress, Legionella, Asbestos, Fire Risk Assessment, Noise, Dermatitis, First Aid, Driving at Work, Permit to Work, Visitors and Contractors, Work Equipment, Violence at Work, Electrical Safety, Gas Safety, Lifting Equipment, and Lone Working

A number of recent incidents have highlighted the dangers of disregarding the importance of hazard-spotting and risk assessments.


Just last month a distillery worker was left with serious burns after a company failed to manage flammable liquids. As well as severe burns, the fire also destroyed the warehouse, nearby houses and vehicles before it could be controlled by the Fire Service. Had a risk assessment been conducted  in line with Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) to ensure that everything was in working order, and the chosen procedure evaluated, the injury and damage caused could have been so easily avoided. The owner was fined £270,000 as well as £25,009 in costs, after pleading guilty to breaching 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Falls from height

A school in Brentwood also pleaded guilty earlier this year after failing to comply with health and safety regulations, following the fall of a worker. The 63-year-old was on the roof and got his foot caught, causing him to fall approximately 2.6 metres to the ground below. He was taken to hospital with injuries, including a broken collarbone and chipped vertebrae. Following the accident, the HSE discovered that there were no arrangements in place for this work and it was not carried out in a safe manner. Further consequences included paying a fine of £40,000 and £1,477 in costs.

Manual handling and lifting equipment

Workers frequently suffer from manual handling injuries by incorrectly lifting, pushing pulling, carrying and lowering items. Similarly, in care homes and nursing homes, workers have the added complexity of moving vulnerable people. Correct training and risk assessments are a necessity to evaluate and alleviate risks – and this could be the matter of life or death. In 2017 a healthcare firm was fined over £350,000 after poor staff training was found to be in place regarding the handling and moving of residents. May Ward, aged 100, sadly died after falling from a hoist in her care home and suffering severe injuries. She suffered several fractures to her skull, hip and knee. A series of previous safety breaches at the care home had also been discovered.

These incidents highlight the importance of having a suitable risk assessment in place. Shield Safety Group can provide you with a suite of generic work-based risk assessment, suited to your business. Our generic templates will enable you to carry out your own risk assessments for whenever you need one. Having a risk assessment in place provides the evidence you need to demonstrate how far you’ve gone to make a situation as safe as possible.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official food safety, health and safety or fire safety advice. Shield Safety Group take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety Group services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email


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