Five Steps To Risk Assessment

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The five steps to risk assessment is an industry wide recognised method to manage the health and safety of both your business and your employees. Organisations must control hazards in the workplace by reviewing tasks/activities in the workplace that may cause harm and decide if there are reasonable steps in place to prevent harm. This can be done by following the five steps to risk assessment and creating a document to reflect this.

The Five Steps

Identify The Hazard

Take a look around your location right now. Or think about your usual base of operations. What hazards
can you identify?? Maybe ask a colleague to think about your place of work, often a fresh pair of eyes will
see things we often overlook.

Sometimes hazards aren’t immediately identified. Think about processes or procedures that don’t often
take place as well, such as maintenance & cleaning. Even access steps into a building could be a hazard, so take time to look at every stage of a task/process to identify the hazards.

Decide Who Is At Risk

Its important to remember that different hazards will affect different people within the organisation, so what might harm one person might harm another, so you must look at each and every hazard across the business.

You must consider all personnel that work or set foot into your business or will be undertaking a particular task. This may include employees, contractors, visitors, young workers, elderly, migrant workers, those whose first language isn’t English, people with disabilities, expectant mothers, cleaners, maintenance workers and members of the public.

Evaluate The Risk

So now you have identified the hazards and who might be at risk, you need to consider what you can do to eliminate them or at least remove as much risk as possible.

The priority for any hazard is to eliminate it all together!! If you cannot, then you should follow the general principles of prevention:

• Avoid the risk completely if possible.
• Evaluate the risks that cannot be avoided (ie your risk assessment).
• Combat the risks at source (ventilation, segregation, alternative tool/process)
• Adapt the work to the individual (eg height-adjustable chairs).
• Adapt to technical progress (eg using drones for roof inspections).
• Replace the dangerous with the non-dangerous or the less dangerous- Replace sol-vent paints with water-based
• Develop an overall prevention policy—training, organisation of work
• Give collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures— perimeter scaffold, segregation zones, cutting areas away from anyone else….
• Give appropriate instructions to employees—Communication and training is key.

Record Your Findings

So you know the hazards, who might be harmed, evaluated the risks and control measures, so now its time to record this information and how you intend to control the hazards.

A risk assessment template is a good place to start. There are many free templates online that you could use. A good example can be found HERE on the HSE website. What is key, is that the risk assessment is suitable & sufficient. This should show that a proper check was made, you identified everyone who might be harmed, you dealt with the significant hazards, the residual risk is low and that this information is communicated across the organisation.

Review & Update Your Findings

It is important to review risk assessments periodically, even if the task/process doesnt appear to have changed since it was last completed. There are often other factors that do change and may affect the works.

So when might you review and update your risk assessment?

• If there is change to the senior management/leadership team
• Introduction of new processes and procedures
• New machinery/techniques/chemicals being used
• After an incident/accident
• New starters
• Changes to working hours
• New premises or location for that particular task taking place
• Annual review/audits
• New or developing hazards

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How To Prepare Your Risk Assessment

Before attempting to write a risk assessment, you must first understand the definitions of the terms ‘Hazard’ & ‘Risk’. These are quite often confused, so for clarity:


“This is something that has the potential to cause harm”. Some typical workplace hazards are shown below.


“This is the likelihood of the hazard actually causing harm”. The effects of the risk occurring could include electrocution, deafness, sprains & strains, musculoskeletal problems, blindness, burns, cuts, crushing, disease or even death.

Assessing the Level of Risk

In order to establish the level of risk associated with a particular activity and what control measures are required, we must consider two factors: How likely something will happen and the severity of the effect.

Risk = Likelihood x Severity

Calculating The Level Of Risk

Organistions calculate the level of risk associated with a hazard in various ways. This is usually a form of scale providing a rating as HIGH, MED, LOW. This can be sufficient, however sometimes a more detailed scoring methodology is required. The matrix shown considers what you have read above regarding likelihood and severity.

Taking what you deem as a score on a 1-5 scale for each will generate a number, putting it in a HIGH, MED, LOW category. Colour coding helps to indicate the level of the risk.

Risk Matrix
A score is calculated for the hazard prior to any control measures are implemented and again after to show what reduction was achieved but also to indicate the level of residual risk, which should be zero or very low if possible.

Further Learning & Guidance

In order to provide your teams with information and guidance, we have created a range of free toolbox talks. Simply head over to our Free Resources page to view the growing collection of documents or click the button below to download our Five steps to Risk Assessment toolbox talk in PDF.