Information About Performing Risk Assessments
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is nothing more than a careful examination of what in your work could cause harm to people so you can decide whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm. The main aim is to make sure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill.
You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace. The important things you need to decide are whether a hazard is significant, and whether you have it covered by satisfactory precautions so that the risk is small. As an example, electricity can kill, but the risk of it doing so in an office environment is remote if you regularly maintain the system and appliances.
How do I conduct a risk assessment?
There are 5 basic steps to a risk assessment:
- look for the hazards e.g. pieces of equipment, hazardous substances;
- decide who might be harmed and how e.g. staff, employees, public;
- evaluate the risks and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done;
- you should record your findings (where you have five or more employees);
- you should regularly review your assessments and revise them e.g. new work processes and equipment.
It is important to remember the need for two specific risk assessments for more vulnerable staff members i.e. for pregnant workers and young people.
Who should conduct risk assessments?
If you are a small firm, and you are confident that you understand what's involved, you can do the assessment yourself. If you are a larger firm, you could ask a responsible employee, safety representative or safety officer to help you. If you are not confident, get help from a competent source, for example a health & safety consultant. Whoever does the assessment must make themselves familiar with your work activities and know where to go for additional advice/information.
There is no standard format for a risk assessment as long as it covers the above 5 steps.
You do not have to assess ordinary day to day risks unless they have the potential to cause injury. A strong example would be slips, trips and falls. Although walking is a normal activity, slips, trips or falls can be responsible for up to 2/3rds of accidents in many service industries, so you cannot ignore this hazard.
Five Steps to Risk Assessment INDG163 ISBN 0 7176 1565 0.
Risk assessment template.
The HSE have a number of risk assessment models on their website - visit HSE here.
The Health and Safety Toolbox