A risk assessment is a careful examination of what could cause
harm to people, and the identification of precautions which should
be taken to prevent it. It is a legal requirement to carry out risk
assessments on all work practices.
You must decide what the hazards are in the workplace for which you
are responsible and whether they are significant. You must then
introduce control measures to reduce the risk of harm to a
Hazards include electricity, chemicals, machinery, ladders,
vehicles, etc. Risk is the chance that the hazards will
cause harm. For example, electricity can kill if live wires are
exposed, but the risk is very low if components are insulated and
There are essentially 5 steps involved in Risk
Step 1: Look for the hazards.
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how.
Step 3: Evaluate the risks; note existing precautions; identify
Step 4: Record your findings.
Step 5: Review the assessment periodically.
For most businesses, the hazards are few and simple and checking
them is common sense. Precautions may be already in place, or
improving them may be simple.
In identifying hazards, ask colleagues for their opinions, consider
manufacturers’ instructions and data sheets, and look at the
Those most at risk of being harmed are new and young employees;
visitors, contractors and others unfamiliar with the site or its
practices. Don’t forget that longer term employees may have become
In reducing risk, consider the following:
(a) Are you complying with specific law, e.g. on machinery
(b) Have you considered Industry Standards and HSE
(c) What additional precautions can be taken.
Precautions include physical controls, management, training,
written instructions, changing work practices, personal protective
equipment and maintenance.
It is best to write down the findings of all Risk Assessments and
to record action taken and reviews, although this is only a legal
requirement if you have more than 5 employees. You should involve
employees in the process and tell them of your findings
Further information is available in HSE Guidance, obtainable from
HSE Books, P.O. Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, Tel. 01787 881165, or
the HSE Info. line 0541 545500.