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December 5, 2016

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Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment template and guide

Risk assessments are an essential part of any business planning process. Most work carries a risk of potential harm and injury and therefore employers must consider what should be actively done to control it.

Companies with five employees or more are legally obliged to conducting a risk assessment.

It is not possible to control all risks – work would be impossible under these conditions. However, the risk of injury and damage should be controlled to ‘reasonable and ‘acceptable’ levels and it is the aim of risk assessment to achieve this.

Risk assessment is not an end in itself  but is rather a means of managing risk. Many managers fail to appreciate this and invest far too much time in developing pristine documents to keep on a shelf in the hopes of impressing a visiting inspector or auditor!

Risk assessments should review all of the activities of the business and the places of work and identify the hazards arising.

The people at risk should be identified along with existing risk control measures. Then following an evaluation against the standards to be met, any required improvements should be identified along with timescale and responsibilities for implementation

The process of risk assessment requires you to think about who could be harmed in your workplace, how they could be harmed, and what reasonable steps you can take to prevent that harm.

Whether to comply with the law, or to help protect your company against civil claim, the risk assessment process is a fundamental element of your health and safety management system.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 every employer must assess the risk to employees whilst at work and those affected by his undertaking e.g. customers, contractors and visitors.

  • hazard is anything that may cause harm e.g. chemicals, electricity, falling from ladders, being hit by a reversing vehicle etc.
  • The riskis the likelihood (high or low) that somebody could be harmed by the hazard and the severity of outcome.

 The HSE’s five steps to risk assessment:

  1. Identify the hazards: Walk around your workplace, consult your staff and look at accident records. Consider both routine and non-routine practices, including cleaning and maintenance.
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how: Consider any person who enters your workplace (including any external areas like parking). Those who may be harmed typically include staff, customers, visitors, contractors (e.g. maintenance and cleaning staff). Consider that pregnant or nursing mothers, young workers, and migrant workers have particular requirements.
  3. Evaluate the risk and decide on precautions: Focus first on higher risk areas – those hazards that can result in the most severe injuries (e.g. falling from height when cleaning gutters/changing lightbulbs) and those more likely to cause injury (e.g. slips and trips).

Can the hazard be eliminated? If not, how can the risk be reduced?

Precautions (control measures) need to be implemented taking into account ‘reasonable’ expenditure, time, trouble, and what is considered normal industry practice.  Employee involvement or external health and safety advice may help to determine the most appropriate and practical control measures.

  1. Record: The risk assessment must be recorded unless you have fewer than five employees. Health and safety inspectors and insurers will request sight of your risk assessments so these need to be readily available.
  2. Review: Risk assessments should be reviewed typically annually or in event of changes in business operations, layout or equipment etc.

Risk Assessment Guide

Download the full risk assessment technical guide  from Barbour EHS for practical and comprehensive information on Risk Assessments.  Topics covered include:

  • Understanding risk assessments
  • Legal requirements
  • What a risk assessment involves
  • Undertaking a risk assessment
  • Identifying the hazards
  • Evaluating the level of risk
  • Key actions

Evaluating risk

When it comes to evaluating the level of risk, Risk (R) is the combination of the likelihood of the hazardous event occuring (L) and the severity or degree of harm (S). i.e. L x S = R.

Determining the level of risk therefore requires the assessor to estimate the likelihood of the event taking place and the nature of the harm taking into account risk factors and past experience.

The risk rating can be used at several points during the risk assessment. Some companies choose to assess the level of risk arising from the hazard imagining that there are no risk control measures in place, and to then reassess after proscribing risk control measures. Others only assess the degree of risk after all risk control measures have been considered, including new ones not yet implemented. Either approach is acceptable.

Risk evaluation matrix

There are a large number of means of evaluating risk numerically but in general the end results should enable a person to understand priorities easily, so a three level of five level system is usually the maximum required in the majority of workplaces. e.g. the outcome might give a measure of Low, Medium or High risk.

Here is an example of three by three matrix, i.e. three levels of likelihood and three levels of severity:


  1. Low: the event is unlikely to happen or certainly would occur very infrequently
  2. Medium: the event is expected to occur on a less regular basis, but is still recognised as a problem by the team
  3. High: an event is expected to occur on a regular basis, for example once a month or so regularly that it is perceived to be a problem

Estimates of Consequences or Harm

Harm can range from death, major or minor physical injuries, disease, genetic defects, mental injuries, to social trauma.

Possible definitions for consequences being low, medium or high are as follows:

Nature of Harm to People

  1. Low: Outcome up to (and including) administration of first aid
  2. Medium: Hospital visits and/or absence for up to three days
  3. High: Death or major injury/accident resulting in over three days absence from work.

Assessors use the 3×3 grid of ‘nature of harm Vs likelihood of harm’ to provide an estimate of the degrees of risk:

Risk Assessment image 2

Another way of looking at this is to simply multiply the numbers:

Risk Assessment image 1

In this approach scores of 1-2 = low risk, 3-4 = moderate and 6-9 = high

This process is based on the judgement of the assessor using their knowledge, any information (including accident data) and observations of the workplace. Part of the consideration must also include the ‘exposure factor’ which reflects the number of people exposed, and the length of time they may be exposed.

Download the full guide here

Further reading

Risk Assessment articles

Revision of PAS 79 published to help reduce fire risk and improve the safety of non-domestic buildings and housing premises

BSI, in its role as the UK National Standards Body, has published PAS 79, Fire Risk Assessment. Guidance and a recommended methodology. 

‘COVID-19 controls increasing fire risks at work’, warns safety expert

Controls to limit the risks of COVID-19 transmission are having an impact on the management of workplace fire risks, according to a firefighter and safety trainer.

How does HAVS impact the rail sector?

Mary Cameron, Team Leader within SOCOTEC’s Occupational Hygiene team, discusses the impact that HAV exposure has on employees within the rail sector and the actions that organisations can take to effectively reduce and eliminate exposure.

Manchester Arena attack: Risk assessment was ‘pretty much box ticking’

An inquiry into the Manchester Arena terror attack has been told that the risk assessments carried out by operators were ‘flawed’ and ‘pretty much box ticking’.

MSDs in the agriculture sector: From identifying the risks to adopting preventive measures

EU-OSHA has published a discussion paper, which looks at the use of mechanisation to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, especially upper limb disorders, in the agricultural sector.

Webinar Wednesdays: What makes a good risk assessment?

Hear from health & safety experts discussing what makes a good risk assessment and giving an overview of the hierarchy of risk controls. Join us on 11 November.

Risk assessment support

Make UK provides a range of practical solutions, support and insight to help businesses keep their people safe.

HSE COVID-secure spot inspections target Bolton and Trafford

Bolton and Trafford are the latest areas the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is specifically targeting with spot inspections to ensure workplaces are COVID-secure.

COVID-19 construction site risk assessment template

This assessment covers all activities in relation to construction work. It focuses on the required control measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The risk assessment trap: Are risk assessments encouraging unsafe behaviours?

Are risk assessments encouraging unsafe behaviours? Tony Roscoe, Head of Consulting Services at Anker & Marsh, looks at human behaviour and whether people take greater risks because a risk assessment has been completed.

Safety at MINI post lockdown: ‘The big challenge is not so much making people safe, but making people feel safe’

Ian Hepplewhite, General Manager for Physical Logistics at iconic manufacturer MINI, part of the BMW Group, speaks to SHD Logistics Magazine about the impact of lockdown and COVID-19 on the Oxford plant.

1,300% increase in demand for COVID-19 risk assessments

In the week after the government published its strategy for lifting lockdown, demand for COVID-19 risk assessments has surged 1,300%.

Returning to work once COVID-19 lockdown relaxes – What’s expected in health and safety criminal law and how can you avoid prosecution?

Your organisation is looking ahead to stepwise resumption of operations once the COVID-19 lockdown starts to be eased. But what are your health and safety criminal law obligations for the return to work and what do you need to do to stay on the right side of the criminal law?

Practitioner’s Guide – Integrating environment and sustainability into organisational culture

The prophetic words of Dylan are often used but: ‘the times they are changing’… particularly in the context of the environment and sustainability.

‘A catalogue of fire risks’ found at Victoria Coach Station

London’s Victoria Coach Station has been given a fire enforcement notice after concerns were raised from fire experts  that revealed a “catalogue of major fire risks”.

Unlicensed acupuncturist sentenced to 26-weeks imprisonment

An unlicensed acupuncturist has been found guilty of causing serious injury to an 86-year-old pensioner.

‘The lives of young people are being put at risk by the Scout Association’, says Coroner

A report has claimed that The Scout Association is risking the lives of children and young people, through inadequate supervision during dangerous activities.

Meet Emma, the colleague of the future

Researchers have designed what the average office-worker will look in 20 years, to physically show workers the damaging changes suboptimal offices can have on their health.

Refuse worker escapes being crushed by bin lorry

A refuse worker in Birmingham was nearly crushed to death by a bin lorry, after he was dragged into the lifting machine.

6 common electrical safety issues on construction sites

Workers on construction sites have a lot of safety issues to consider, but one that can often go overlooked is that of electrical safety. Every year there are around 1,000 accidents at work related to electricity – and around 30 of these are fatal. This shows just how important it is to take electricity seriously.

Only 15% of newly-built schools in the UK are fitted with sprinklers

iHASCO, a provider of health and safety eLearning, is urging education institutions to tackle fire hazards with the launch of its updated Fire Awareness course.

One in four universities received complaints from students and staff on fire safety

Research conducted by Eaton, a power management company, suggests that universities need to invest more in existing technology that will improve fire safety for students and staff.

Top 5 most-read in November 2019

The most read fines and prosecution articles in November 2019 includes, a man struck off from being a director for five years for allowing employees to use unsafe machines, and a £600,000 fine to Places for People Homes, after five workers develop HAVS.

Fire safety for construction workers on high-rise buildings

Bull Products is urging construction companies to implement practical fire risk assessments on high-rise buildings, reports IFSEC Global.

The 5 biggest workplace fire hazards

Fires can happen pretty much anywhere but are particularly common in the workplace. In the UK, there are approximately 16,000 non-residential fires reported each year, and a large proportion of these are found to take place at work.

Top 5 most read in October 2019

The most read fines and prosecution articles in October 2019 includes, a £2.6m fine to DHL after a worker was killed by a stack of tyres.

Sole director jailed after employee killed by excavator

Robert Harvey, sole Director and employee of Front Row Builders Ltd, sentenced after employee crushed to death by an excavator bucket.

5 step guide to legionella risk management for education estates managers

What is the appetite for risk amongst managers of education estates with responsibility for health & safety?

Generic risk assessments not suitable for task

A Hitchin-based construction company has been sentenced after a carpenter sustained nerve and tissue damage to his lower back after a fall from height.

Burns and scalds injuries in the workplace

CE Safety has analysed Labour Force Survey and found that, between 2015 and 2018, 23,000 workers reported suffering from non-fatal burns or scalds.

Access an extensive range of Taylor & Francis published resources, so you can learn more about how to create a safe and healthy work environment with SHP Online’s exclusive health & safety bookshop.

These books cover the latest health and safety knowledge, best practice, and important moral, legal, and financial issues pertaining to a safety manager’s job.

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Paulo G. C. Araujo
Paulo G. C. Araujo
3 years ago

Hello everyone, I’m looking for the HRN’s original publication from early 1990s. Could you help me with it?

Paulo G. C. Araujo
Paulo G. C. Araujo
3 years ago

Thank you in advance for any help.