Risk assessments are not just a box-ticking exercise

Risk assessments are an essential part of ensuring the health and safety of colleagues and members of the public. They are designed to identify potential dangers, enabling the elaboration and implementation of an effective health and safety programme.
When recommendations are ignored, it is often only a matter of time before the risks are demonstrated in dramatic and sometimes tragic ways. Falls from height make up a significant proportion of accidents in the workplace, and any risks should be managed appropriately.
A recent case involving a receptionist at a dentist’s surgery in Sheffield illustrates how dangerous ignoring risk assessment advice can be. The woman was with another colleague on the roof of a single-storey extension when she tried to sit on a domed roof light.
The roof light was too fragile and the woman fell more than three metres, injuring her neck, shoulder, back and knee and required hospital treatment.
Subsequent investigations showed that four years before the accident a risk assessment highlighted the dangers of using the roof during breaks, recommending that access should be prevented. The company failed to heed the warnings.
The prosecution was successful and the company was fined £18,500 and ordered to pay costs of more than £70,000.