What is a risk assessment?
In its simplest form a risk assessment is an evaluation a person completes to ensure that there are no risks or hazards which may cause damage to individuals or assets and if there are, to mitigate those risks or hazards.
An employer is required by law to protect their employees and others from harm. The Management of Health & Safety at Work regulations (1999) specify that the minimum steps an employer must take to protect employees and others are to:
- Identify what hazards could cause injury or illness in their business
- Decide the likeliness and seriousness of the risk and what possible harm could result
- Take preventative actions to eliminate / mitigate the hazards or risks
If an employer has five employees or more this must be written and readily accessible in the business premises.
When writing a risk assessment, it is advisable that management teams consult with their employees as they are the ones who will be working around or near potential hazards and are often best placed to identify the potential risks.
Risk assessments in the workplace:
In all workplaces there will be different hazards which present themselves based on the size of the workplace, the nature of the work and the industry the company operates in.
Businesses which do not complete a risk assessment may incur large fines if someone is injured while at work, whether that is in their workplace, at home or elsewhere.
Risk assessments during Covid:
Due to the Covid pandemic businesses have had to rethink their workplace risk assessments to include mitigating the risks of Covid. This has included: introducing Lateral Flow Testing for employees, cleaning the business premises more often and more thoroughly and in some instances, closing the premises due to Covid outbreaks. Many businesses introduced workplace bubbles as part of their risk assessments so that if an employee were to catch Covid, only their bubble would have to self-isolate and the business could continue to function from its premises.
Risk assessments for employees working from home:
There are several things to consider when allowing employees to work from home.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states:
“As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as for any other worker.”
As such just like a business has the responsibility to look after employees’ wellbeing in the workplace this would also apply to any place that the employee conducts work from. The way employers are able to do this is by conducting a risk assessment of the premises employees are working from, in this case, their home address.
During the pandemic many employees were forced to work from home, many with unsuitable working conditions. Employees were working from one-bedroom apartments on their beds, without desks and ergonomic chairs, wires trailing across the floor and other dependants being around the house. These are not the conditions that employees should be working under. Therefore, many firms who wanted to mitigate risk ensured that they supplied their employees with the correct equipment to work from home.
In a case in Germany, an employee walked down one flight of stairs at home, tripped on the way to his computer and broke his back. He then went on to successfully make a claim on the workplace accident insurance as the court ruled it was considered an accident at work as he was technically commuting to his workplace.
It is a legal obligation for Employers to conduct & have risk assessments in place to protect both their employees and the business. This will mitigate risks to employees and potential claims on the business.
Employers must always take into account individual employees’ circumstances and ensure that if employees are going to work from home that they undertake a risk assessment which assesses both the physical working environment and the psychological impact of the employee working from home to best protect the employee.
You can download a free working from home risk assessment here.