Your employer has a legal duty to assess the risks to the health and safety of employees that they may be exposed to whilst at work. In carrying out a risk assessment your employer should consult your health and safety representatives.

The law states that a risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’, i.e., it should show that the employer has;

  1. Conducted a thorough check.
  2. Considered who might be affected.
  3. Dealt with all the obvious significant risks, taking into account the number of people who could be involved.
  4. Taken all reasonable precautions, and ensured the remaining risk is as low as reasonably practicable.
  5. Involved workers or their representatives in the process.

The level of detail in a risk assessment should be proportionate to the risk and appropriate to the nature of the work. Insignificant risks can usually be ignored, as can risks arising from routine activities associated with life in general, unless the work activity compounds or significantly alters those risks. 

Risk assessments should take into account individual characteristics and circumstances where relevant; for instance, if you are disabled or pregnant.

In layman’s terms your employer must:

  • Tell you how to do your job safely in a way that you can understand and tell you about the risks to your health and safety from current or proposed working practices.
  • Tell you how any risks will be controlled and who is responsible for doing this.
  • Consult and work with health and safety representatives and employees to protect everyone from harm in the workplace.
  • Tell you how to get first-aid treatment and what to do in an emergency.

Your employer must provide, free of charge:

  • Training to enable you to do your job safely.
  • Any equipment and protection necessary for you to do your work safely (such as clothing, shoes or boots, eye and ear protection, gloves, masks etc) and ensure it is properly maintained.
  • Health checks if there is a danger of ill health because of your work.
  • Regular health checks if you work nights and a check before you start.

The risk assessment should only include what could reasonably be expected to know – the employer is not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

All members must have sight of, understand and follow the risk assessment and the safe system of work for their workplace as this is how your employer will keep you, as far as reasonably practicable, safe in the workplace.

There is some confusion as to the status of the RMP within the safety process, the RMP is an off shoot of the risk assessment process, and it is the risk assessment which under pins the RMP and cannot be deviated from unless there is a serious and imminent threat.

As an employee you also have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in so much as you must:

  • Take care of your own health and safety and that of people who may be affected by what you do (or do not do).
  • Co-operate with others on health and safety, and not interfere with, or misuse, anything provided for your health, safety or welfare.
  • Follow the training you have received when using any work items your employer has given you.

Therefore, the NEC advise all POA members to ask their line manager for copies of the risk assessments and safe systems of work for their area of work and to be aware of them when undertaking any tasks.

This circular must be brought to the attention of ALL POA members as soon as possible.


Yours sincerely


Deputy General Secretary

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.