Every employer needs to carry out risk assessments by law, but we all know they are something many business owners put off. The good news is that it does not need to be a particularly difficult or time consuming task.
I think the reason so many people avoid risk assessments is because there are misconceptions out there about what’s involved. So here are the top five myths about risk assessments, which I have come across when speaking to business owners.
Myth 1: Small businesses don’t need to do risk assessments
With just a few employees, many small businesses think they don’t need to worry about risk assessments. However, it is a myth that only big companies and major employers need to carry out risk assessments. It is vitally important that all employers take safety seriously and consider potential risks.
The good news is that a risk assessment really just involves using your common sense to ensure you are taking reasonable steps to protect your employees.
Myth 2: You don’t need to write down your risk assessment
If there is an accident on your premises, you could face a compensation claim from an employee or an inspection from the Health and Safety Executive. Any workplace, however small, could be asked to provide copies of risk assessments after an accident has occurred. A risk assessment is evidence that you had done all you reasonably could to foresee the main risks in your workplace. Finding yourself facing a claim without having a written risk assessment in place is likely to make your position very difficult to defend.
Myth 3: Risk assessments are time consuming
Business owners are busy so it is understandable that many of them put off carrying out risk assessments because of time pressures.
In fact, carrying out a risk assessment does not need to be complicated or time consuming. A good starting point is simply walking around your premises and considering the following:
- Identify any potential hazards (this could include machinery or hazardous substances)
- Consider who might be harmed and how (remember any contractors and visitors, as well as employees)
- Evaluate the risks and decide on any precautions you may need to put in place to minimise the risk
- Record your significant findings
It is a good idea to involve employees in this process as they may spot hazards that you have missed.
Businesses with a number of different work spaces may want to stagger risk assessments to avoid taking too much time out on one day.
Once you have carried out your first risk assessment, we recommend reviewing it at least once a year, and sooner if there are any significant changes. Any reviews are likely to be quicker and easier than the initial risk assessment.
Myth 4: You need to pay a health and safety expert to carry out a risk assessment
Many of our Members worry about the cost of carrying out a risk assessment. You can, of course, employ an external health and safety expert to conduct a risk assessment of your workplace but this is not usually necessary. You know your business better than anyone so are well placed to assess your own workplace.
Myth 5: Risk assessments involve reams of paperwork
We know that business owners often fear the amount of paperwork that they feel would be involved in a risk assessment. There is no set format you have to follow and simply making notes as you work through the four points above will suffice. You can keep a hand written or digital record of a risk assessment and it does not need to be presented in any particular way.
Running a business is hard work and so it is not surprising that many people put off carrying out risk assessments. I hope that having a better understanding of what is involved will reassure you that although it is an important task, it is not a difficult one.
Arthur Denton is Claims Team Leader for Cornish Mutual and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.