Law Changes & Health and Safety Risk Assessments
The conducting of a risk assessment should not be viewed as a task which needs to be completed no matter what at a regular fixed point in time such as one the same day of every year. Rather, it needs to be undertaken whenever there is a significant change or alteration to circumstances in the workplace. Articles on this site such as 'Why a Constantly Changing Construction Site is Dangerous' and 'The Continual Need for Fire Risk Assessments' highlight the fact that a workplace which undergoes a significant alteration - whether in layout, process, substances utilised etc - will end up being materially different to the place of work (and its associated risks) which were considered in the original risk assessment. In such a circumstance, it will be highly advisable to conduct a fresh risk assessment which will incorporate these new hazards to the safety of employees and members of the public, not to mention providing health and safety training to workers regarding these new dangers.
Changes to Health and Safety Legislation
One such change which will need to be accounted for is a change in the law. Health and safety legislation is frequently being introduced, altered and tweaked with the intention of making the workplace as safe as is reasonably practical for both employees and members of the public in the surrounding area. It is the responsibility of company directors and managers to keep abreast of changes to health and safety laws which are applicable to their business, and can include such actions as:
- Frequently undertaking health and safety courses, including courses/units focusing on health and safety law and legislation such as the NGC1 unit of the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification.
- Watching and reading the news, including industry-specific publications, which will report changes to the law.
What to Do After a Change in the Law
Whenever there is a change to the law regarding health and safety (or any other subject concerning the business for that matter), changes will need to be made in order to conform to the new legal requirements, as a failure to comply can result in heavy regulatory fines and even criminal prosecution in some instances. Even without the moral obligations of preventing harm coming to workers, this is a good reason for directors to swiftly comply with health and safety requirements.
How Legislative Changes Can Require an Alteration to the Workplace
The alterations required will depend upon the specific requirements of the legislative changes, but will sometimes necessitate dramatic changes to any number of areas like:
- The number of safety features such as a specific amount per number of employees
- Minimum distances between certain processes
- Increased robustness of storage and containment areas for hazardous substances
- Prohibiting the use or storage of certain substances or raw materials/ingredients
- A banning of a finished product, which requires a company to quickly switch to making something else
The list is endless, but as can be seen from the few examples listed above the potential consequences can result in significant and major changes to the current working environment. This will nearly always bring with it a whole host of new and different risks and dangers to health, safety and wellbeing to people and the local environment. As such, whenever this significant alteration occurs, a new risk assessment should be conducted to identify the risks and dangers posed by the changes so that appropriate steps can be taken, including the provision of updated safety training, to minimise the likelihood of an accident taking place.