Concerns have been rasied by the shopworkers’ union, Usdaw, about the HSE’s proposed new online risk assessments for shops.

The HSE’s consultation on the assessment closed recently 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 factors such as location and what is sold.

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

John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, said:
“This attempt to develop an online 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.”