How to do a risk assessment

Written by sue smith Google
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How to do a risk assessment
The hazards within a workplace are not always obvious, but can be identified as part of a risk assessment. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

A risk assessment can be a vital element in the risk management approach for any organisation. For business managers, employee health and safety is a prime concern. Carrying out risk assessments for all areas of the business or organisation's operations gives you the opportunity to identify areas for potential hazard, take steps to address this hazard and ultimately create a safer working environment for your employees. Risk assessments are important in a business of any type, not just in industrial sectors or with business activities traditionally considered to be high-risk. Carrying out a risk assessment is a straightforward task in most cases.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Consider the hazards within your business. You need to consider each of the tasks and activities carried out as part of your organisation, whether these are carried out in one or more locations. Find out what the hazards are by exploring the environment and activities yourself and by communicating with the employees who are carrying the tasks out. For equipment, instruction documentation may outline hazards. For certain trades, the relevant associations may be able to provide you with an overview of common hazards. Find out about any past incidents such as accidents by consulting accident books - these can provide an instant overview of hazards. Hazards can be issues that cause long-term as well as short-term health problems.

  2. 2

    Establish the nature of the potential harm. Once you have your hazards listed, go through each one and outline who is potentially at risk. Outline what the potential consequence of the hazard is in each case. Remember that the people at potential risk from the hazards may include temporary and permanent staff, visitors and even members of the public, depending on the nature of your business.

  3. 3

    Consider possible ways to address the risks. For each risk identified, consider whether there are any courses of action that you could take to eliminate or decrease the likelihood of the harm that may be caused. Such approaches can include changing business operations to avoid the risk, changing equipment or material used in the activity, providing protective equipment and using first-aid facilities.

  4. 4

    Formalise the results of your risk assessment. A risk assessment is only worthwhile if you act on it. Enter the results of the risk assessment in some documentation for future reference. You can then use this record to implement the changes you have identified as approaches to the risks you found. The Health and Safety Executive expect you to be able to demonstrate that you checked for risks, communicated with the people potentially affected and took steps to deal with any significant issues identified. Once you have a completed risk assessment for the business, you can review and update it in future.

Tips and warnings

  • The Health and Safety Executive website includes downloads of risk assessment templates you can use.
  • If you are an employer you have a legal responsibility to create a safe working environment.

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