Doing a risk assessment


How to do a risk assessment with free downloadable template

Risk assessments are an essential part of any good safety management system and, if you run or manage a business in the UK, you must be aware of what they are and how to correctly complete them. In this article, we have answered some of the most common questions about them:

  • What is a risk assessment?
  • What is the purpose of a risk assessment?
  • Is a risk assessment a legal requirement?
  • When should a risk assessment be carried out?
  • Who is responsible for completing a risk assessment?
  • How to do a risk assessment?
  • What does a risk assessment look like?
  • How often should a risk assessment be reviewed?

What is a risk assessment?

Hazards are wide ranging and present in every workplace and are defined as anything that has the potential to cause harm. A risk assessment is the process of analysing the hazards in your workplace and assessing if you have done enough to prevent them from causing harm to anyone with whom they have contact. If not, you must decide on and put measures in place to control the hazard to protect your workforce from injury and ill-health.

What is the purpose of a risk assessment?

Risk assessments help to ensure that a workplace is safe for those in it, and are important for several reasons. First, and most obviously, they help employers to identify and manage the specific hazards that are present in their workplace and, in doing so, protect their employees from harm. This comes with many benefits, including protecting your business from the legal and financial repercussions that could arise if someone is injured at work.

Also, they help to provide information to employees and those in the workplace. This demonstrates your commitment to health and safety and makes it easier for people to work safely by informing them of workplace risks that they may not have been aware of.

Finally, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to carry out risk assessments to protect their employees. Failure to do so can result in a business being responsible for any injuries or cases of ill-health that occur in its workplace that could have been prevented with suitable control measures. This has severe consequences, including fines and imprisonment.

When should a risk assessment be carried out?

A risk assessment must be carried out before a task is carried out in order to make sure that any hazards associated with it are eliminated or controlled before someone can be exposed to them.

They must also be reviewed regularly and in response to certain events, more information on which is covered in a later question.

Who is responsible for completing a risk assessment?

Ultimately, the responsibility for completing a risk assessment lies with the owner of the business.

However, this responsibility is typically delegated to a health and safety coordinator, site manager or other appropriate person who is trained in carrying out risk assessments and has practical experience that allows them to do so effectively. If you are looking for appropriate training, consider our online risk assessment training course.

How to do a risk assessment?

There are five stages to carrying out a risk assessment.

Step 1 - Identify the hazards

This step involves looking around a workplace and identifying the things in it that may cause harm. This can be done in many ways, including observing processes, checking accident records and talking with employees.

Step 2 - Estimate the risks

Once the hazards have been identified, they must be assessed to see how likely they are to cause harm and the potential consequences if they do.

Step 3 - Evaluate the risks

This step involves working out how serious the risk each hazard poses is and deciding on appropriate control measures to manage these risks.

Step 4 - Record the findings

Once the risks have been evaluated and control measures are decided upon, the findings from the assessment must be recorded appropriately. A template is available to download here:

Download our template here

Step 5 - Review the controls

After a risk assessment has been completed, it must be reviewed regularly. More information on this can be found below.

What does a risk assessment look like?

A risk assessment can take multiple forms, but will typically look something like this:

Risk assessment example

As you can see, it contains a clear record of the hazard identified, who it may harm, how it can cause harm, the existing control measures that are in place, its risk level and the proposed new control measures.

How often should a risk assessment be reviewed?

It is important that a risk assessment is reviewed regularly to make sure that the control measures in place are effective and that no new hazards have arisen. The time between reviews will vary depending on the level of risk present but should be no longer than 6 months.

There are also several events that will prompt an immediate review, including:

  • A significant change to the process or workplace (such as using new equipment, materials or staff).
  • An incident or accident taking place.
  • A near-miss being reported.
  • Concerns being raised about the current control measures.

A case that demonstrates the importance of completing regular reviews is HSE vs Calachem Limited. An employee of Calachem Limited, a chemical manufacturing company, was scalded with boiling water while cleaning a chute and an HSE investigation found that the cleaning process had changed significantly since it was initially implemented. These changes had not prompted a review of the company’s risk assessment so the new hazards were not suitably controlled and, as a result, Calachem Limited were found guilty and fined £560,000.