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Under English health and safety statute law (Management of Health and Safety Regulations, 2002, regulation 3) it is a legal duty that all employers assess the risks to workers and any others who may be affected by their work or business. This will enable them to identify the measures they need to take to comply with health and safety law. This process is termed risk assessment.

A risk assessment is carried out to identify the risks to health and safety to any person arising out of, or in connection with, work or the conduct of their undertaking. It should identify how the risks arise and how they impact on those affected.

This information is needed to make a decision on how to manage those risks, so that the decisions which are made are informed, rational and structured. The action taken is then proportionate to the risks identified.

A risk assessment should be "suitable and sufficient" and involves identifying the hazards present in any working environment and evaluating the extent of the risks involved, taking into account existing precautions and their effectiveness.


hazard: Something which has the potential to cause harm. This can be the material which is handled, equipment used, method of work employed or the working environment.

The risk: This is the likelihood of potential harm from that hazard being realised. The extent of risk will depend on:

1. The likelihood of that harm occurring.

2. The potential severity of that harm i.e. of any resultant injury or adverse health effects.

3. The population which might be affected by the hazard i.e. the number of people who might be exposed.

The control: These are the preventative and protective measures put in place to control the risks identified. These must be appropriate, sufficient and workable.

Risk assessments must be reviewed if the nature of the work changes or if at least on an annual basis.


The Regulations lay certain duties upon employers in respect to his employees, these are:

1) They, the employer, shall not carry on any work which is liable to expose any employees to any substance hazardous to health unless they have made a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks created by that work to the health of those employees.

2) Every employer shall ensure that the exposure of their employees to substances hazardous to health is either prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.

3) So far as is reasonably practicably, the prevention or adequate control of exposure of employees to a substance hazardous to health shall be secured by measures other than the provision of personal protective equipment.

4) Every employer who provides any control measure to meet the requirements of the Regulations shall ensure that it is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

Roles and Responsibilities

Responsibility of group leader or line manager:

To require all individuals under their supervision to carry out risk assessments before starting any work with substances hazardous to health.

Work involving lasers, radiation or genetically modified organisms MUST be approved by the University Health and Safety Services before it can start.

Responsibility of individual:

To refrain from carrying out any work with substances hazardous to health without having first carried out a risk assessment in compliance with the regulations.

Responsibility of Health and Safety Manager:

To provide support where required on the preparation of risk assessments and to ensure liaise with the Head of School on areas of compliance.

It is not the responsibility of the Health and Safety Manager to produce risk assessments for other members of staff.

Further information: