Donate My RoSPA
    Basket is empty.
Net Total: £0.00

1.7 million workers suffer from work-related ill health, which costs UK businesses over £15 billion per year. Adequately assessing the risks your organisation faces plays a fundamental part in reducing accidents and the costs they incur, which is why improving your risk management capabilities is so important.

What is the definition of risk assessment?

A risk assessment will protect your workers and your business, as well as help you to comply with law. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a risk assessment as:

“….a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm….”

Why are risk assessments important?

Who can do a risk assessment?

When should risk assessments be done?

How to do a risk assessment?

Why are risk assessments important?

A risk assessment is a vital element for health and safety management and its main objective is to determine the measures required to comply with statutory duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and associated regulations by reducing the level of incidents/accidents. It looks at what might cause harm and what is needed to avoid it, and assesses the effectiveness of any control measures in place. Extra control measures can then be used on the basis that they are “reasonably practicable”.


Who can do a risk assessment?

As an employer, you need to appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. According to HSE, a competent person is “someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety”.
Any of the following can be appointed to do the risk assessments:

  • You

  • One or more of your employees

  • Someone from outside your business.

If you decide to carry out the risk assessments yourself or nominate someone in your organisation, you might decide to get some risk assessment training as it will then ensure that this person is competent and will gain abilities to identify hazards and categorise/evaluate risks. These abilities will allow a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment to be conducted within your own organisation.


When should risk assessments be done?

You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have covered all you need to. Start by using the five steps below, review any risk assessments you already have on an ongoing basis and always assess risks if new machines, substances or procedures are brought in.

How to do a risk assessment

There are no fixed rules on how a risk assessment should be carried out, but there are a few general principles that should be followed.
These Five steps to risk assessment can be followed to ensure that your risk assessment is carried out correctly:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures
  4. Record your findings and implement them
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary.

Steps 1 and 2

Step 1: Identify the hazards
In order to identify hazards, you need to understand the difference between a “hazard” and “risk”. A hazard is “something with the potential to cause harm” and a risk is “the likelihood of that potential harm being realised”.
Hazards can be identified by using a number of different techniques, such as walking round the workplace or asking your employees.

Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Once you have identified a number of hazards, you need to understand who might be harmed and how, such as “people working in the warehouse” or “members of the public”.

Steps 3 - 5

Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures
After identifying the hazards and deciding who might be harmed and how, you are then required to protect people from harm. The hazards can either be removed completely or the risks controlled, so that an injury is unlikely.

Step 4: Record your findings
Your findings should be written down, which is a legal requirement where there are five or more employees, and by recording the findings you are showing that you have identified the hazards, decided who could be harmed and how you plan to eliminate the risks and hazards.

Step 5: Review your assessment and update as and when necessary
You should never forget that few workplaces stay the same and as a result this risk assessment should be reviewed and updated when required.

Risk assessment forms and templates

One size does not fit all when it comes to risk assessments, as each organisation’s activities and risks will differ.  Organisations need to understand the importance of tailoring risk assessments to match their risk profile in order to ensure that all affected personnel and activities are covered. 

HSE’s website has some good risk assessment examples. However, please remember that simply copying the template and putting your company name on it will not be enough to fulfil your legal duty. Every business is unique and consequently faces a unique set of risks and hazards, so each organisation needs to understand the actual risk assessments that have been carried out.

As HSE points out:

 “Even where the hazards are the same, the control measures you adopt may have to be different from those in the examples to meet the particular conditions in your workplace.”

Main Image

Already a member?

Sign in to your MyRoSPA account for extra support and guidance to help you manage the risks faced by your organisation
Sign in

Become a member

Get the support you need to manage the risks you face in your organisation by joining our vibrant community of members
Join today