What is a Risk Assessment in Health and Social Care?

What is a Risk Assessment in Health and Social Care?

Health and social care are sectors that pride themselves on the welfare and health and safety of all involved. Therefore, carrying out a risk assessment in social work is important to secure equality of treatment of employees.

Because social services are such a diverse area of work, risks can occur in social or physical or mental health. They also occur in different age ranges, from child to adult social care.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) 1974 and Health and Social Care Act 2008, all employers have a legal duty to carry out a risk assessment, no matter the sector they are in. Organisations have to carry out an evaluation for all employees, as well as people who may be affected by their work.


What is a Risk Assessment in Care?

A risk assessment in health and social care is used to spot potential areas of danger in the workplace and apply reasonable measures to prevent them.

It is used for social carer protection against potential harassment or discrimination from individuals they are caring for. In addition to this, the cared-for have the right to “care and support that is safe and takes their needs, freedom and dignity into account”.[1]

The United Kingdom’s main regulatory body for all social and health care needs is the Health and Safety Executive. It is responsible for working with local authorities to regulate the activities of employers. If necessary, they will take legal action if they find an organisation that is not complying.

The main risks for workers like a health care assistant include:

  • Violent, aggressive or discriminatory behaviour
  • Diseases like legionella[2]
  • General trips and slips
  • Manual handling
  • Mental health problems


The Policy Drafting Process

In planning a risk assessment, there are a few things that organisations need to bear in mind. Firstly, and according to the Health and Safety Executive[3], a risk assessment in health and social care needs to be carried out every time a new risk presents itself.

In addition, it is good practice to consult employees during the process, as it is covered by the Approved Code of Practice for the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999[4]. As a result, employees feel more involved and are therefore more likely to willingly adopt and understand the new procedures.

Furthermore, organisations in social services should remember the five points in drafting a risk assessment, which includes identifying risk, deciding who will be harmed, evaluating risks, recording finding and monitoring and reviewing them.[5]

Employers must consider risks that apply to a whole range of parties in a social and health care institution[6], including:

  • Everyone in the workplace, affected by general risks like asbestos, tripping hazards, electrical equipment and legionella
  • Service users, including falling from heights
  • Particular staff members, including young workers and pregnant mums
  • Particular service users, including any mental health issues and falling from beds

All social service policies must look to balance the “needs freedom and dignity”[7] of service users, with employee rights to a safe place of work. This is why individuals need specialised care, as regulations can’t cover the personal needs of everyone.


Penalties for Failing to do a Risk Assessment

However, if an organisation fails their duty of care to either service users or carers, they can be penalised under HASAWA or regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR).

This can also be the case if a risk assessment in social work does not have the required detail to tackle a particular problem. Employers must ensure that risk levels are relatively low after conducting an evaluation.

Punishments may include imprisonment for individual people or unlimited fines for organisations. Fines are calculated based on the turnover of a business, so a fine of up to £4 million can be placed on a company that generates between £10-£50 million annually.


You can view our Risks and Responsibilities online training course here.


[1] http://www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/sensible-risk-assessment-care-settings.htm

[2] http://www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/legionella.htm

[3] https://www.hse.gov.uk/

[4] http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l21.htm

[5] https://www.qcs.co.uk/health-safety-risk-assessments-i-need-record/

[6] https://app.croneri.co.uk/feature-articles/risk-assessment-adult-social-care

[7] http://www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/sensible-risk-assessment-care-settings.htm