Why poor workplace risk assessments are risky for your business

Hand flicking through the pages of a document

Risk assessments. A legal necessity, but something that can become expensive (both financially and reputationally) for employers if they don’t know what they’re doing.

What’s the purpose of a risk assessment? The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes it as a step-by-step process for controlling Health & Safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace.

They’re crucial documents that you should constantly be reviewing and updating to make sure they’re always fit for purpose. If you don’t, you end up putting your employees, business, and reputation at risk.

So, why is it so vital to have a robust work risk assessment in place? And what are the consequences of having a poor one?


Why are workplace risk assessments so essential?

As an employer, you have a legal duty to assess the risks to Health & Safety in your workplace. By having a risk assessment in place, you can spot any potential hazards to the safety of your employees and anyone who visits your business premises, and then take steps to either entirely remove or take steps to reduce the risk of those hazards.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 make it clear that employers need to not just assess the risks to the Health & Safety of employees, but also anyone “not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.” In simple terms, that means anyone who could be affected by your work activities (please excuse the gender-specific language here – these rules apply to ALL employers, regardless of gender!).

It’s also important to consider the competence of your employees when conducting a risk assessment. This will help you understand the level of information, instruction, training and supervision you need to provide.

That’ll come in handy when deciding who to appoint as your ‘competent person’, too. Your competent person needs to be someone suitably qualified to meet the Health & Safety requirements of your business. Their role in this context is to support you with the five steps to risk assessments, which are:

  1. Identify hazards
  2. Assess the risks
  3. Control the risks
  4. Record your findings
  5. Review the controls


Consequences of a poor workplace risk assessment

Not having a solid (and up-to-date) risk assessment can lead to accidents, injuries, fines, and even prosecutions, putting your employees’ safety and your business’ reputation on the line.

In terms of severity, illness, injury, and death are some of the most disastrous consequences of a poor risk assessment. When fatalities do happen, often employers failing to complete, review, or act upon the results of a risk assessment emerge as the root causes.

The legal implications of poor risk assessments include enforcement notices, prosecution, huge fines, and even imprisonment. These can lead to irreversible financial and reputational damage, higher insurance premiums, and loss of investment and clients.


Common workplace risks

Slips, trips and falls

One of the most consistent causes of accidents, which comes out on top most years in the HSE annual statistics, is slips, trips and falls – accounting for 33% of non-fatal injuries at work. Similarly, one of the top reasons for fatalities is falls from height. A strong risk assessment is key to preventing them.


Another risk to be considered is stress. Since the pandemic, work-related stress has skyrocketed, accounting for 50% of all new cases of work-related ill health in 2020/21. Stress risk assessments are a legal responsibility, and vital for managing the risk of work-related stress in the workplace. Find out how to go about them in our free guide below.

A beginner’s guide to stress risk assessments

Discover your legal responsibilities when it comes to stress risk assessments and how to go about completing them with this free guide from our Health & Safety experts.

Download the guide

Radiation exposure

Radiation exposure is also a significant risk. You have a legal duty to consider the risks from radiation in the workplace. Certain industries will face a higher level of risk than others, but you must make sure you have properly assessed it.


Risk assessment support from experts you can trust

Our workplace risk assessment support helps to keep your employees safe, with a bank of over 1000 risk assessment templates and 24/7 advice, covering everything from COSHH risk assessments and fire risk assessments, to stress risk assessments and DSEAR risk assessments.


If you want to discuss how we can help you quickly and easily create, store and distribute compliant risk assessments, get in touch with our expert consultants today.

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