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the need for risk assessment for stress caused by bullying and harassment, management of 
health and safety at work regulations
Half the population are bullied ... most only recognize it when they read this

Bullying and risk assessment

Stress is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive demands and excessive workloads; stress is a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Risk assessments are a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Regulation 3 stipulates that:

Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of -

(a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and

(b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.

The Approved Code of Practice goes on to say:

This regulation requires all employers and self-employed people to assess the risks to workers and any others who may be affected by their work or business. This will enable them to identify the measures they need to take to comply with health and safety law. All employers should carry out a systematic general examination of the effect of their undertaking, their work activities and the condition of the premises. Those who employ five or more employees should record the significant findings of that risk assessment.

A risk assessment is carried out to identify the risks to health and safety to any person arising out of, or in connection with, work or the conduct of their undertaking. It should identify how the risks arise and how they impact on those affected. This information is needed to make decisions on how to manage those risks so that the decisions are made in an informed, rational and structured manner, and the action taken is proportionate.

A risk assessment should usually involve identifying the hazards present in any working environment or arising out of commercial activities and work activities, and evaluating the extent of the risks involved, taking into account existing precautions and their effectiveness. In this approved code of practice:

(a) a hazard is something with the potential to cause harm (this can include articles, substances, plant or machines, methods of work, the working environment and other aspects of work organisation);
(b) a risk is the likelihood of potential harm from that hazard being realised. The extent of the risk will depend on:

(i) the likelihood of that harm occurring;
(ii) the potential severity of that harm, i.e. of any resultant injury or adverse health effect; and
(iii) the population which might be affected by the hazard, i.e. the number of people who might be exposed.

The purpose of the risk assessment is to help the employer or self-employed person to determine what measures should be taken to comply with the employer's or self-employed person's duties under the 'relevant statutory provisions' and part ii of the fire regulations. This covers the general duty of care in the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) and the requirements of part ii of the fire regulations and the more specific duties in the various acts and regulations (including these regulations) associated with the HASAWA. Once the measures have been determined in this way, the duty to put them into effect will be defined in the statutory provisions. For example a risk assessment on machinery would be undertaken under these regulations, but the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 {s.i. 1998/2306.} Determine what precautions must be carried out.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations go on to say:

Where the risk assessment identifies risks to new and expectant mothers and these risks cannot be avoided by the preventive and protective measures taken by an employer, the employer will need to:

(a) alter her working conditions or hours of work if it is reasonable to do so and would avoid the risks or, if these conditions cannot be met;
(b) identify and offer her suitable alternative work that is available, and if that is not feasible;
(c) suspend her from work. The employment rights act 1996 (which is the responsibility of the department of trade and industry) requires that this suspension should be on full pay. Employment rights are enforced through the employment tribunals.

All employers should take account of women of child-bearing age when carrying out the risk assessment and identify the preventive and protective measures that are required in regulation 3. The additional steps of altering working conditions or hours of work, offering suitable alternative work or suspension as outlined above may be taken once an employee has given her employer notice in writing that she is pregnant, has given birth within the last six months or is breastfeeding. If the employee continues to breastfeed for more than six months after the birth she should ensure the employer is informed of this, so that the appropriate measures can continue to be taken. Employers need to ensure that those workers who are breastfeeding are not exposed to risks that could damage their health and safety as long as they breastfeed. If the employee informs her employer that she is pregnant for the purpose of any other statutory requirements, such as statutory maternity pay, this will be sufficient for the purpose of these regulations.

Once an employer has been informed in writing that an employee is a new or expectant mother, the employer needs to immediately put into place the steps described above. The employer may request confirmation of the pregnancy by means of a certificate from a registered medical practitioner or a registered midwife in writing. If this certificate has not been produced within a reasonable period of time, the employer is not bound to maintain changes to working hours or conditions or to maintain paid leave. A reasonable period of time will allow for all necessary medical examinations and tests to be completed.

HSE produce the following publications with regards to risk assessments:

1. Management of health and safety at work : Approved Code of Practice, L21, ISBN 0717624889, 8.00
2. Five steps to risk assessment : case studies, HSG183, ISBN 0717615804, 6.75
3. Five Steps to risk assessments, INDG163, Free
4. A guide to risk assessments requirements, INDG218, Free

Also available is a free booklet Help on Work Related Stress: a Short Guide (INDG281). This states:

Q. As an employer, is it my concern?
A. Yes. It's your duty in law to make sure that your employees aren't made ill by their work. And stress CAN make your employees ill. Also, action to reduce stress can be very cost-effective. The costs of stress to your firm may show up as high staff turnover, an increase in sickness absence, reduced work performance, poor timekeeping and more customer complaints. Stress in one person can also lead to stress in staff who have to cover for their colleague. Also, employers who don't take stress seriously may leave themselves open to compensation claims from employees who have suffered ill health from work-related stress. Fortunately, reducing stress need not cost you a lot of money.

Q. Under health and safety law, what must I do about stress?
A. Where stress caused or made worse by work could lead to ill health, you must assess the risk. A risk assessment for stress involves:

[] looking for pressures at work which could cause high and long-lasting levels of stress;
[] deciding who might be harmed by these; and
[] deciding whether you are doing enough to prevent that harm.

If necessary, you must then take reasonable steps to deal with those pressures.

Recommended reading

Tackling Work Related Stress, HSE, June 2001, ISBN 0-7176-2050-6 (includes bullying and harassment)

The above publications are available from

HSE Books,
PO Box 1999,
Suffolk CO10 2WA
Tel: 01787 881165
Fax: 01787 313995

Where now?
Lots of information and ideas for tackling bullying including the legal aspects
Action Home Page | Action to tackle bullying
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Long v. Mercury Mobile Communications Services
Hatton Barber et al: 16 practical propositions for a personal injury case
Right to be accompanied | The need for risk assessment
High Court injunction to prevent unfair dismissal | Obstruction to justice
Bullyonline action forum for validation and re-empowerment
UK Dignity at Work Bill | Swedish law on Victimization at Work
Bullying and human rights | Waters v. London Metropolitan Police
Barber v. Somerset County Council
Zimmerman: retaliation in the US courts
Bullying history: books, articles and publications since 1992
How to lobby your MP: example letter and summary of inadequacy of UK law
Amicus Campaign Against Bullying At Work (CABAW)
Tim Field's written submission to the Dignity at Work Bill debate
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