About risk assessment
A risk assessment is a careful examination of the work activities that could, whether on or off site, cause harm to people so that your employer can weigh up whether they have taken adequate precautions or should do more to prevent harm.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess the risks arising from work activities to both employees and non-employees (eg students, visiting parents). Employees have a right to see the results of risk assessments.
Who can do risk assessments?
Employers are responsible for ensuring that risk assessments are carried out by competent people (ie those who have sufficient knowledge, skills, experience and aptitude). These people may be current employees, provided they have been suitably trained, or external health and safety professionals.
Safety reps have a legal right to be consulted and can assist on risk assessments. However, the risk assessment remains the legal obligation of the employer and therefore should be signed by the employer once complete.
Activities that should be assessed
All work activities that could present a potential hazard should be risk assessed. 'Hazard' means something with the potential to cause harm, including ill health as well as injury. 'Risk' is the likelihood of that hazard actually causing harm during the course of work activities.
In an education setting, there are particular situations that typically require risk assessments:
the work activities of all new and expectant mothers require a specific risk assessment under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, with any necessary adjustments made to their working conditions (see the section on new and expectant mothers for more on this)
a risk assessment should be conducted before taking students off site (see the ATL publication, Taking students off site, for more)
workplace stress and stressors should also be included within risk assessments (see the section on stress for more detail).
It is worth noting that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) considers it unacceptable if risk assessments are neglected. If a HSE inspector visits a workplace - to investigate an accident for example - risk assessment records will be among the first things that he or she will ask to see. Many schools and colleges produce generic risk assessments, which detail the procedures that are to be followed. These are particularly useful for newly qualified members of staff.
Need further advice?
Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.