Risk Assessments

A fundamental part of health and safety is risk assessments. 

As stated in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, regulation 3, it is a legal requirement for every employer to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of their work. The purpose of the assessment is to identify what needs to be done to control health and safety risks. 

Completing a full Register of Risk Assessments can seem like a daunting task, but this genuinely should not be the case.  The Competent Person is responsible for ensuring the company premises and every work activity is risk assessed.

Risk Assessments are essentially risk management; it is about taking practical steps to protect people from real harm and suffering. It is not about paperwork or covering your back, it is about doing the best for your people.

People often confuse the terms “HAZARD” and “RISK”.  It is very important that you understand the difference:

A HAZARD is anything that has potential to cause harm.

A RISK is the likelihood of that harm occurring and how bad that harm could be.

Control measures are the steps you put in place to eliminate or minimise the risks presented by the hazard.

Completing a Risk Assessment and implementing the control measures is a very satisfying activity – once you have completed this you can be sure that you have complied with the law and that your workplace is as safe as it can be.

Getting Started

Employers Actions

Firstly, identify what has to be risk assessed.  This list will include:

  • The premises
    • Physical hazards in the workplace (internal and external) e.g. asbestos, water safety (legionella), lifts, slips/trips/falls, remote areas etc
    • Fire safety
    • Maintenance requirements
  • The work activities carried out e.g. office work, driving, receiving deliveries, visiting clients etc
  • Items of plant and equipment used at work
  • Employees who are pregnant or have given birth within the preceding 12 months
  • Employees who are under 18 years old
  • Employees who work alone 
  • Employees who work from home
  • Employees who Travel for Work
  • Employees who have health issues
  • First aid provision required
  • Employees Returning to Work After Illness
  • Stress at Work
  • Shared workplace

Firstly, the risk assessments do not have to be carried out by the same person.  In fact, it makes more sense for each assessment to be undertaken by the person most involved with the topic being assessed.   The Competent Person must oversee the process and make sure the risk assessments are appropriate and complete, but he or she does not have to write them all.

You do not necessarily need specific training or qualifications to carry out a risk assessment. 

As an employer, however, the company must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.

You could appoint one or a combination of:

  • a director 
  • one or more employees or managers 
  • someone from outside your business

The company may need extra help or advice if you do not have sufficient experience or knowledge in-house.  The company may also need extra help if the risks are complex.

Secondly, once the Register is completed, the bulk of the work is done.  All Risk Assessments must be reviewed. The amount of time between each review is not specified by law but is determined by the risks that you have noted in the risk assessment.  It is recommended that risk assessments are reviewed annually or following an accident or near miss, but they don’t have to be re-written.  

As an organisation grows or you introduce new equipment or task activities, it is likely that new risk assessments will be required, but this is not as big a task as setting up the whole Register.

There are five steps to Risk Assessing:

Step What you have to do How to do it
1. Identify the hazards. List all hazards, that is anything with the potential to cause harm.
2. For each hazard:

Decide who might be harmed and how.

“Who” – staff, customers, visitors, suppliers, members of the public etc, anyone who could be harmed by the hazard you have identified.  
“How” – a brief statement of the type of harm that could occur, such as slipping, tripping, falling, stress, attack etc.
3. For each hazard:

Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures.

Evaluate: How likely is it that the hazard will cause harm to someone?  And how bad could that harm be?  The answers to these two questions will give you the risk rating e.g. High, Medium, Low.  
Control measures: You now need to identify as many ways of eliminating or minimising the risk as possible.  These could include staff training, safety signage, changing a way of working etc.
4. Record your findings and implement them. Use the Risk Assessment template to record your findings for items 1, 2 and 3 above.  You must now make sure the Risk Assessment is shown to all the employees who are affected AND that the control measures are put into practice. 
5. Review your assessment and update as necessary. All risk assessments must be regularly reviewed, usually every year.  

If an accident or incident occurs, the relevant risk assessments must be reviewed to see whether the control measures need to be changed.

If work activities change in any way, the relevant risk assessments must be reviewed to ensure they still apply.

How we can help

At YourHS.space we believe that risk assessments should be carried out in-house wherever possible. You will know your business and hence the risk better than any external person.

That does not mean we leave you on your own. We offer various levels of support with risk assessments:

  1. YourHS.space provides sample and template risk assessments that you can follow. There is also a video ‘how to conduct risk assessments’
  2. We also provide Competent Person Coaching where we work with the Competent Person to help them understand and fulfil their obligations (which include risk assessments).
  3. Finally, we can do risk assessments for you, but even when we do this, we would recommend we do this alongside your Competent Person or Manager so we can train them and transfer skills.

This makes your business more self sufficient and helps build a positive culture of health and safety. 

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