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What is a Risk Assessment?

Risk assessments are a vital component of the health and safety strategy of an organisation and conducting them is a legal requirement. Risk assessments are a process which identify hazards and analyse the risks involved with these hazards, and implement controls to protect against these hazards.

Risk assessments are a vital component to your approach to health and safety in the workplace. Risk assessments effectively identify where the risks are within your workplace and subsequently deal with these risks to protect all of those involved, through implementing measures that will effectively control these risks. It is a legal requirement to conduct a risk assessment, and therefore it is important to comply with risk assessments in order to avoid the sometimes fatal repercussions.

How to conduct risk assessments

1) Initially, it needs to be conducted with identifying where the risks are in your workplace. This can be done by thinking through the processes which occur in your workplace. Is it an area which uses machinery? Does your workplace incorporate the use of particular chemicals? Think about the risks which are specific to your work. If you are struggling to identify the risks, perhaps have a look over the incidents which have occurred within your organisation previously, to establish the risks which caused them.

2) Decide which employees, work associates and visitors will be exposed to these risks. For example, if there are particular chemicals in one room, then clearly the individuals working in that room will be most at risk. Take into consideration the people you have in your team, whether they are fairly young or older, whether they are pregnant etc. Once you are aware of the risks and who in particular may be in contact with these risks, it will become so much easier to implement the appropriate control measures.

3) Choose your control measures that need to be implemented to protect against these risks. You need to balance these risks against the feasibility of implementing control measures; for example, whether the control measures will be expensive or not. Some control measures include preventing access to risks or providing assistance for welfare and first aid. Ensure your employees and everyone involved are aware of the measures which have been implemented.

4) Once you have implemented the controls and communicated these around the workplace, your risk assessment should be in place. Following this, your risk assessment should be continually updated and reviewed to ensure that your controls which have been implemented are still appropriate, as well as checking whether there are new risks which have been identified. The individuals in your organisation will likely be changing regularly, and therefore the risks which will be relevant to each individual will change.

What are some of the important things to remember regarding risk assessments?

When conducting your risk assessment, it is probably appropriate to distinguish between your hazards and your risks. Hazards are regarded as anything which could potentially cause harm; for example, if you work at height, the hazard here could be regarded as working on a ladder. Risks are regarded as the likelihood that these hazards will harm someone, thus the risk could be high or low. The risk assessment is the overall process. Through creating a risk assessment your organisation will have a strong chance of meeting the appropriate legal requirements.

When conducting risk assessments, you need to consider which individuals will be directly involved in the risk assessment process, such as which members of the management team or supervisors will be responsible for conducting the risk assessment. The risk assessment effectively compartmentalises what the hazard is, what the risk is and then what the control measure is.

For example:

Hazard = An employee driving in congested traffic for work regularly.

Risk = That employee will be working for long hours which may result in them becoming tired. Once tired they could lose concentration on the road and this could lead to a collision. Collisions may become even more likely because the driving is in congestion as well.

Control measure = Find an alternative mode of transport for this employee or perhaps change the working hours during which this employee will be driving, to decrease the chance of driving during congestion.

Once an organisation has completed a risk assessment, the workplace is much more likely to be effectively protected. This risk assessment needs to be continually re-assessed and updated in order to ensure that each new individual is assessed and protected, and all new possible risks are identified.

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