A risky business 07 February 2011 Saleem-Khalid personal injury (0) The Claimant/Appellant in Robert Uren v Corporate Leisure & The Ministry of Defence was meant to be participating in a day which promoted his health. It was on said day that his accident occurred. He broke his neck after jumping head first into a shallow pool during a team exercise. In its decision handed down last week, the Court of Appeal affirmed that an employer’s duty to undertake a risk assessment for a potentially hazardous activity was non-delegable: Regulation 3 Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1999. However, if an employer in fact delegated this task to a contractor then such a risk assessment could theoretically still be deemed to be ‘suitable and sufficient’ even if it was not as detailed as it could otherwise have been. This case at first blush appears to formulate a useful foundation to businesses allowing risk assessments to be carried out on their behalf. Nevertheless, in fact it shows that great caution must be taken when asking another to perform this obligation. Mere “tick-box” assessments were disapproved of but simple assessments would suffice if there were few variables. The employer needs to assess the risk assessment produced thoroughly in any event. In the instant case, the risk assessment carried out was not considered sufficient, hence there could not have been proper reliance placed upon it. Causation can often come to the rescue of deficient risk assessments but it is well established that there will usually not be any mileage in employers alleging that the risk of injury was only slight. The Court of Appeal held that the judge at first instance did not pay sufficient regard to eye-witness accounts about how dangerous this game played by the RAF was and failed to take into account the differing views of the experts when preferring one over the other. Accordingly, he failed to balance risk with societal utility commensurately, albeit a balancing exercise of this nature was the correct one. Their Lordships were clearly emphasising that the risk assessment obligation was crucial, not only to employers but also to judges: who should not simply skip to the balancing exercise. The successful appeal means that there will be a re-trial. I will now let others take the risk of guessing what the final outcome will (or should) be…?