I have been asked by our company to perform a risk assessment on a manager who has been accused of bullying on 3 occasions in the past 8 years (inconclusive investigations). I have provided my managers with advice that a health and safety risk assessment is not the correct tool to use, nor am I prepared to conduct a risk assessment. I have referred them to a third-party provider if they wish to continue.
Is there a precedent for using a health and safety risk assessment in this manner? Are there any legal ramifications in doing this?
A general risk assessment of an individual is not the correct tool. However, there may be evidence from the earlier (inconclusive) investigations as to what is alleged to have caused the conduct of concern. Therefore, steps could be put in place to minimise the risk of further bullying based on those allegations.
For example, if the alleged bullying related to inappropriate or aggressive interactions then, in addition to any counselling of the manager, it may be possible to set up protocols for interactions between the manager and the staff members. Those protocols might include such steps as another independent person always being copied in on email correspondence or present in meetings. Not all of these steps may be appropriate or effective and so some form of assessment is required before implementing those controls.
In general terms, a health and safety risk assessment is appropriate if you are looking at your workplace generally and assessing how best to respond to the risk of bullying. The likely outcome of a risk assessment would be to develop workplace policies and provide grievance mechanisms and processes for conducting investigations.
For further information, Chapter B1 – Bullying of the Health and Safety Handbook provides useful information regarding health and safety duties in relation to workplace bullying.