Risk assessments should reflect the realities of wider reopening – look out for further NEU advice.

  1. Remind management that Covid-19 risk assessment is a legal requirement Your employer has a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, nobody is harmed by their work. This is not only the right thing to do – it is the law. Risk assessment is the main tool for employers to use to ensure the workplace is kept safe. Covid-19 has the potential to cause serious illness and death and so employers must, using competent persons, assess the risks to employees and others and introduce sufficient protective measures. The NEU expects employers to also conduct individual risk assessments, taking account of personal and household circumstances and, where necessary, medical advice. Age, sex, ethnicity, pregnancy and disability should form part of every employer’s risk assessments for individual staff members. Coronavirus: medically vulnerable and higher risk groups | NEU
  2. Remind management that consulting with staff and union health and safety reps is a legal requirement Your employer has a duty to consult with staff on health and safety. There is also a specific legal requirement to consult with health and safety reps when drawing up a risk assessment. If your workplace hasn’t got a health and safety rep, why not appoint one? Health and safety reps | NEU
  3. Remind management that risk assessments must be regularly reviewed in consultation with staff and union reps Risk assessments, including for individuals, are dynamic processes that must be subject to regular review and revised, following consultation, as circumstances change, for example when schools moved to partial opening. Further reviews should happen when operating arrangements change again, whether for wider or full opening.
  4. Discuss with NEU colleagues, and other staff, any hazards which are poorly controlled in your workplace Nobody understands a workplace better than those who work in it. Highlight areas of concern with management. While the employer must consult, it is not the role of the union rep or health and safety rep to undertake or ‘sign off’ risk assessments – that remains the employer’s responsibility.
  5. Challenge risk assessments which appear to be generic and not specific to your school or college Risk assessments must be tailored to each workplace – there is no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ risk assessment. Simply adopting an ‘off the peg’ model is not an option.
  6. Check whether your school/college’s risk assessment fully evaluates the risk of harm If a risk assessment describes the overall risk of, for example, reverting to full opening as ‘low’ or ‘moderate’ then ask how this was arrived at. Risk assessments should use the formula of LIKELIHOOD x SEVERITY = RISK. See Coronavirus: school/college risk assessment | NEU
  7. Encourage a culture of openness Risk assessments are not confidential, they are there to help keep everyone safe. They should be accessible to staff, students and parents/carers.
  8. Check that your employer understands the consequences of failure to get it right In the context of Covid-19, a failure by employers to adequately control risks could lead to uncontrolled spread of the virus, illness and even death. The Health and Safety Executive could investigate and take enforcement action.
  9. Find out more here – Coronavirus: school/college risk assessment | NEU – including how to check if a risk assessment is good enough.
  10. Learn more from our excellent on-line health and safety courses National training programme | NEU