Changes to HSE Guidance for Risk Assessments

Friday, November 25, 2016

Safety Smart are of the opinion that when considering the Management Regulations, which stipulate the requirement for risks to be assessed and written down, the HSE’s proposed changes to risk assessment requirements are a massive step in changing the requirements and interpretation of these Regulations


The HSE are proposing to make changes to their current guidance on risk and they want to hear what duty holders think before they publish it.

The proposed changes

• The HSE are concerned that many people see the requirement to record significant findings of a risk assessment as something separate from other things they do to manage their business.
• According to the HSE: “risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork – it is about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace”.
• The HSE wants to put more emphasis on controlling risk and less on written assessments, without reducing standards.

Practical Changes

The HSE’s updated message to businesses with regard to changes to risk assessment is clear – risk assessment should be part of day-to-day business management. However, the difference is that the HSE’s position is now that “risk assessment can be part of an existing business document”, such as:
• workplace ‘housekeeping’ rules
• manufacturers’ instructions
• training materials
• method statements
• safety data sheets


The central tenant of the HSE’s message with regard to this shift in focus is to make sure the way dutyholders record their significant findings helps with the management of risk.

HSE’s Consultation

The HSE have asked dutyholders to play their part in shaping their proposed changes by filling in a questionnaire in which they have highlighted the proposed changes.


• Safety Smart are encouraging our clients to review the consultation which can be found on their website, so that when changes are made to the requirements to risk assess, clients will understand what their key responsibilities are and how the requirements with regard to the recording of them have changed in the light of these substantial developments.

• We would encourage any dialogue with our clients concerning this issue and are happy to discuss any concerns or views relating to these proposed changes.

Safety Smart’s Initial View

• We welcome the proposed changes to the recording of risk assessments. We see this development as the HSE moving away from the prescriptive requirement for a separate risk assessment document and a more realistic appreciation that just because clients, particularly our smaller client base, do not have a specific document entitled “risk assessment” for every single potential risk in their business, does not mean that they are not a responsible employer who have properly considered and properly controlled risks.

• The reality is that very often, there is a substantial overlap between safe system of work documents, risk assessments and method statements. Training documentation will also often outline in detail any associated risks.

• To summarise, we are pleased to see that the HSE are taking a more pragmatic and less pigeon-holed view with regard to what can constitute a risk assessment. We have long held the view that this would be a more realistic way of assessing compliance by employers.

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