What the law requires

Health and safety laws and regulations can be very wordy and hard to understand sometimes. There's certainly no need for you to plough through everything out there in order to fulfil your health and safety responsibilities. Some important terms that you do need to be aware of however are listed below:

'Suitable and sufficient'

The Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations state that a workplace risk assessment must be 'suitable and sufficient. This term is very open to interpretation and can cause uncertainty. Don't worry though! It's intended to allow you some flexibility so that your risk assessment doesn't have to be overcomplicated, but just appropriate to your particular business.

'Reasonably practicable'

The second important term in the legislation comes from the Health and Safety at Work Act, which states that employers must take action to reduce health and safety risks as far as is 'reasonably practicable.' This means that you need to take measures to safeguard occupational wherever possible, but without stretching to excessive costs over health and safety gains.

Imagine a pair of scales with cost on one side and risk on the other. Cost includes finances, time and other resources. If the risk from a hazard outweighs the cost of reducing the risk, action must be taken. If costs substantially outweigh risks, take less costly action, or no action if there are no alternatives. So for example, spending £5000 to prevent the occasional bruised finger would not be reasonable, but spending £50 on a machine guard to stop an arm amputation would be.

'Five or more employees'

The other main requirement that the regulations state for risk assessment is that if there are 5 or more employees in a business, then the significant findings must be recorded. In reality, it's much easier to write everything down anyway, as it means you don't miss or repeat anything.

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