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Written by
on 27 March 2019

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UK employers are legally obliged to conduct a workplace risk assessment for activities that are likely to cause harm to their workers. Risk assessments are one of the most common documents in any business – so why are there so many myths surrounding them?

Here are five myths that need to be busted before your business ends up under investigation by the HSE.

I’m self-employed – I’m exempt

Most self-employed people are aware that they are now exempt from health and safety law – which means that legally, they don’t have to complete risk assessments. But there’s more to this story than the headlines.

The exemption only applies if “your work activity poses no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public.” Which means that all self-employed individuals will need to carry out a basic risk assessment to ensure that their activities meet those criteria.

The contractor has completed the necessary risk assessments

When arriving on a construction site, subcontractors may assume that the principal contractor has carried out all the necessary risk assessments, and the necessary safeguards are in place. For the safety of your own employees however, you must confirm that the paperwork is in place and that your employees understand what is expected of them.

The contractor is responsible for their own risk assessments

When outsourcing tasks to subcontractors, they sometimes may assume that responsibility for risk assessments is also transferred. But as principal contractor, you must ensure that the risk assessments are provided by the subcontractors, and offer adequate protection for all parties on site.

Remember, employers are responsible for the welfare of their employees – they cannot outsource their duty of care to the principal contractor.

Our employees ignore the risk assessments, so they don’t matter

Often workers will take shortcuts, or ignore explicit instructions, placing themselves and their colleagues at risk of injury. But just because people ignore risk assessments, does not mean you can choose not to carry them out.

Instead, you should complete workplace risk assessments as normal, monitor adherence, and provide training to employees as appropriate. In this way, you can encourage everyone to better protect themselves and take action where the safeguards are being ignored.

Risk assessments are a one-time exercise

With a risk assessment in place, all health and safety planning is done, right? Not quite.

Your workplace risk assessments need to evolve as conditions change on the worksite to ensure they continue to address issues faced by your employees, and anything that has changed since the original was written up, such as new equipment or significant alterations to the operating environment.

Cutting through the myths

Effective workplace risk assessments are usually a matter of applying common sense. Answering the questions, what are the dangers posed to my employees, and what can we do to minimise those risks?

If you’ve never written up a risk assessment, or you’re confused by some of the stories that surround these very important documents, you ask for help. Here at Veritas Consulting, we work with businesses across the Midlands and beyond, helping them better protect their workers.

To learn more about how we can help you make sense of risk assessments, please get in touch.

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Chartered health and safety consultant. David provides how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. When he is not knee-deep with providing advice, David enjoys being a husband, dad, keeping fit, and prefers drinking wine to beer. Known to be good with compliance and a corkscrew. You can get in touch on social media Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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