Usdaw condemns proposed on-line shop risk assessments

Date: 09 March 2011 The shopworkers Union Usdaw has condemned the Health and Safety Executive's proposed on-line risk assessment for shops, claiming it could encourage a dangerously complacent approach to health and safety.

The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) consultation on the assessment closed today and in a detailed response the Union says it is totally wrong to classify shops as 'low risk', especially as a number face a very real threat of robbery. The Union also says the assessment takes insufficient account of the variety of risks and hazards faced by shops, which vary widely depending on obvious factors such as location and what is sold.

The on-line risk assessment has been developed by HSE as part of its efforts to follow up recommendations from Lord Young's review of health and safety. In his report to the Government called 'Common Sense. Common Safety', Lord Young argued that the HSE should produce simple on-line risk assessments for 'low risk' premises such as offices, schools and shops.

At the time Usdaw raised concerns about the idea of pro-forma risk assessments, arguing that while shops may not have the obvious dangers of a large factory, there were still very real risks such as robberies and violence and abuse to staff.

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary said:

"This attempt to develop an on-line 20-minute risk assessment tool for so called 'small, low risk shops' reveals all too clearly the impracticality of Lord Young's belief that health and safety can be reduced to a simple 'one size fits all' box-ticking exercise."

"By giving the impression that spending 20 minutes going through the online questions an employer will have met their legal obligation to do a risk assessment, the HSE could end up encouraging a dangerously complacent approach to health and safety management. "

Doug Russell, Usdaw's Health and Safety Officer added:

"The nature of the business being assessed and its location is obviously crucial and this simplistic assessment completely misses the point that the risks faced by a local bookmakers or off-licence will obviously be very different to say a second hand bookshop or hairdressers."

"The process encourages the view that health and safety management is all about doing a one-off risk assessment which is done occasionally instead of it being seen as an essential part of the day to day management of the business - as important as stock control, cash accounting and people management."

Notes for Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive's on-line shop risk assessment can be found at: www.hse.gov.uk/consult/condocs/risk-assessment/shop.htm
  2. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest Trade Union, with over 395,000 members. Usdaw is the country's fastest growing Trade Union; membership has increased by more than 15% in the last four years and by over a quarter in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers