Health and safety risk assessments


Health and safety risk assessments

We assess risks every day of our lives.

Crossing a road involves assessing where it is safe to cross and when, based on the risks posed by parked cars, the speed and volume of traffic, and the distance to be travelled. Zebra and Pelican crossings provide the safest way to cross a road, and there are parallels at work, such as guarding the dangerous parts of machinery, or keeping vehicles and people separate by having barriers and designated areas.

Separate risk assessments must be made if you employ young persons - those under 18 - as they do not always have the same level of understanding and perception of risks as older people. HSE have dedicated pages that provide more comprehensive information, please visit Young People at Work

Carrying out a risk assessment is a legal requirement, but need not be daunting if you follow a logical, step by step process:

Identify the hazard

In other words, what could go wrong or cause harm. This could be a fall from height, something that could be tripped over, electricity, asbestos, a badly lit or ventilated area. Most hazards can be spotted or identified easily, but it helps to talk to employees, who may have a better understanding of what's involved in the tasks they carry out.

Once the hazards are identified - list them out.

Determine the level of risk

How much harm or damage could the hazard cause? Common sense experience should guide you here, but it might help to give the level of risk a numerical score, say between 0-5, based on the severity of the harm, likelihood of it occurring, and the number of people it could affect. On this basis if each of the three factors is given a score, they can be added together to give an overall level of risk. A risk that scored 5 in each category would be a 15 and classed as high.

Identify the controls

These are the steps or measures you need to take to eliminate or reduce the risk. In most cases, the controls may be a matter of common sense - if a machine is noisy where ear protection. Sometimes, the situation is more complex and may require several different controls to make the activity safe, such as a busy swimming pool. Here, a combination of controlling the number and type of bathers, supervision and life guarding, and providing safety equipment and emergency alarms may be needed.

Controls should be as simple and practical as possible, eliminating the risk or reducing it to a safe level. Controls should also be reasonable, ensuring a sensible balance between protection of workers and cost.

Creating the risk assessment

Once you have carried out these three steps you can then prioritise which measures you need to implement first.

While one person can carry out the process, it's often better to involve others to allow for discussion, support and consideration of all relevant factors.

Where you have five or more employees, you must record the significant findings of your risk assessment. Officers often ask to see risk assessments as part of their visit or investigation into an accident or complaint. Good, up to date records help employers to demonstrate a positive attitude to safety and health.

You should review your risk assessments from time to time and update them to take account of changes in the workplace, activities or law. Most employers do this annually and record the details of the review to demonstrate good practice.

HSE has produced example risk assessments to help smaller businesses meet their legal obligations. Please visit their Example Risk Assessments for a comprehensive list of assessments that can be downloaded and used by businesses. There are also templates to download and links to other leaflets and information.

Powered by GOSS iCM