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What is a Risk Assessment – Simple Definition

Risk assessments are a fundamental part of workplace health & safety. Whether you employ a health and safety executive or outsource risk analysis, every workplace has hazards. While some only pose a mild risk, others can be life-threatening. The way to properly manage them is with a risk assessment.

Without adequate knowledge of risks or hazards in the workplace, injuries are likely to occur. With this brings a potential fines and legal action.

As an employer it is your legal duty of care to look after those in your workplace. But is a risk assessment a legal requirement as well? Does this fall under a legal duty of care?

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about risk assessments as a business owner. Learn how to conduct risk assessments and identify health and safety hazards. For further information read below or, contact our health & safety experts today on 01455 858 132.

What is a workplace risk assessment?

A risk assessment is the process used to identify hazards (both existing or potential hazards) in the workplace. A risk assessment team will create a systematic process to highlight potential risk.

They are a major part of the risk management process. There are risk assessment laws and regulations that require a workplace risk assessment to be made. The leading piece of legislation in this area is the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations.

The assessment is a process of hazard identification. It requires you to identify all of the hazards that exist in your workplace. It should highlight which hazards are likely to cause harm to employees and outline further control measures to manage them.

Significant findings as risks evaluated during risk assessment

Are risk assessments important?

Risk management is extremely important no matter what size your business is. A risk assessment will identify potential hazards and potential risks. The approach you take should be proportionate to the size of your business.

A risk assessment is based on how many employees you have. However, if you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write down your risk assessment or health & safety policy.

Failure to carry out risk assessments could mean your organisation is exposed to legal risks and could be taken to tribunal.

What are the specific risk assessments I should carry out?

There are various types of risk assessments that you may need to conduct. As well as risk assessments for maternitybribery, and, stress, you may also need to carry out risk assessments for:

  • Fire.
  • Noise.
  • Vibration.
  • Manual Handling.
  • Hazardous Substances.
  • Display Screen Equipment.

You should carry these assessments out regularly and update existing control measures and existing processes where necessary.

What are the benefits of a health & safety risk assessment?

Aside from keeping you, your employees, and anyone visiting your premises safe, conducting risk assessments helps identify risks which in turn helps you develop health and safety management plans.

Having up-to-date and comprehensive health & safety policies and control measures in place helps you stay legally compliant.

The assessment itself is not the end of the story.

Risks take many forms and can impact a workplace and its people in multiple—and sometimes surprising—ways.

Maintaining constant vigilance by conducting and reviewing risk assessment forms regularly is the best way to guarantee safety and security in your workplace.

Employer identifying hazards on site as part of health and safety

What are the common hazards identified in a risk assessment process?

Hazards in your workplace can vary from obvious hazards to less obvious hazards. In order to improve your occupational safety and reduce risks, here are some common hazards that could be considered for your organisation:

  • Adverse weather
  • Biological agents
  • Electricity
  • Hazardous substances
  • Lone working
  • Machinery
  • Manual handling
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Stress
  • Vehicles and workplace transport
  • Violence and aggression
  • Working at height
  • Working in confined spaces

Controlling hazards is key to the safety of your staff so if any of these hazards exist you should act quickly.

Consequences of not carrying out a risk assessment

There’s one obvious result of failing to carry out a health & safety assessment—workplace accidents. Failing to identify and address the risks will mean your staff and visitors will be exposed to them. If this occurs, this will just be the first in a long line of consequences for you and your business.

The accident itself is likely to result in a legal claim by the employee. This, in turn, can result in costly pay-outs for your business. An accident is also likely to draw the attention of the HSE. This often results in hefty fines for breaches of health & safety. HSE can also perform spot checks and even force closure of the business in certain cases. At the very least you will require employment law support.

If your business isn’t forced to close, you will certainly suffer reputational damage which will impact recruitment and staff retention.

For many companies, despite their size, a serious workplace accident can result in a full business closure. Don’t assume your business will be fine.

Detailed guidance obtained from risk assessment

What health and safety risks are assessed?

Risk analysis measures impact all aspects of your working environment. Including for businesses where employees are working from home. Here is a breakdown of how to identify hazards:

Assess risks by area

It should consider all aspects of your working environment. This is different for each business. To be safe, make sure you cover all physical areas of the premises where people work. Identify risks in all activities, services, and operations.

You should also judge whether your current control measures are sufficient and suitable to control, or eliminate, the risks.

Assess risks by hazard

When asking the question: “What should a risk assessment contain?” the obvious answer is ‘hazards’.

If you have concerns about a specific hazard in your workplace, you can receive expert health & safety advice today from one of our consultants. Click here to get 24/7 advice.

Why do we have risk assessments in the workplace?

You have a legal duty of care to protect your workers health, safety and wellbeing.

Some work practices require specialist training, such as the handling of dangerous substances or operating machinery.

These practices throw up a plethora of potential health & safety issues that you need to address.

The main purpose of a health & safety risk assessment is to identify and raise awareness of these hazards and risks.

This serves as the first step in developing an occupational health & safety management plan.

That isn’t the only benefit however, work risk assessments also help in:

  1. Identifying individuals at risk.
  2. Determining if existing precautions are adequate.
  3. Preventing illness or injury (ensure you review a risk assessment following an incident).
  4. Prioritising high-risk hazards over low-risk ones.
  5. Meeting legal requirements and maintaining compliance.
  6. Continual improvement and improving safety.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you that a risk assessment is a good idea, it might help you to know whether a risk assessment is mandatory.

Are risk assessments required by law?

Yes, according to “The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.” However, if you employ less than five people you don’t need to provide a written assessment.

Despite this, you must still look at risks involved and be able to provide evidence of this if investigated. So it’s safe to still document it, even if in a more simplified format.

This piece of legislation outlines an employer’s legal duties with regard to health & safety. More specifically, it requires employers to put control arrangement in place to manage health & safety risks.

It outlines the following requirements for employers:

  1. A written health & safety policy for businesses with five or more staff.
  2. Assessments of the risks to staff and other individuals who could be affected by your activities.
  3. The assessments must be ‘suitable and sufficient’ and in line with risk assessment legislation in the UK.
  4. Arrangement for preventative and protective measures that come from risk assessments
  5. Access to competent health & safety advice.
  6. Information provided to employee about workplace risks.
  7. Instruction and training for staff on dealing with workplace risk.
  8. Adequate and appropriate supervision.
  9. Consultation with employee about the risks they are exposed to and the safety measures in place.

While there is other legislation relating to risk assessments, this is the one you’ll refer back to the most.

Effective controls for risk management due to risk assessments

Who completes a risk assessment?

As the previous section noted, risk assessment regulations require all employers to conduct a risk assessment.

But who specifically is responsible for risk assessments in your workplace?

You should assign a competent person within your business to ensure you meet the requirements of health & safety law. Ultimately, the responsibility for the health and wellbeing of staff falls to you, the employer. However, the competent person can manage health & safety in your stead—this includes risk assessments.

Selecting a competent person

When looking for a competent person to manage health & safety you should give preference to staff within your organisation. This can include you, the employer. If no obvious candidate is available, you can outsource this responsibility, or consult with external health & safety representatives.

A competent person is someone with sufficient training, experience, or knowledge to manage the health & safety in your business. The level of competence will depend on how complex the risks in your workplace are. This doesn’t necessarily mean the individual has specific health & safety qualifications, although these should certainly be taken into account when selecting candidates.

What is the risk assessment process?

You can carry out a risk assessment for any number of hazards or risks in the workplace.

For example, you could choose to conduct a workplace health risk assessment that focuses on work-related illness and the mental well-being of your employees.

Or, you could conduct a review on manual handling, operating heavy machinery, handling hazardous substances, etc.

Ultimately, however, there are two types of risk assessment:

  1. Qualitative.
  2. Quantitative.

You base the former assessment on evidence and circumstances. You base the latter on the personal judgment that you glean from data.

The two are not mutually exclusive, and it is often worth conducting the two together to form a more well-rounded view of the risks.

Whichever approach you choose, the HSE guidelines propose following five rigid steps. Here’s how to do a health & safety risk assessment:

The five steps to a risk assessment

These are as follows:

  1. Identify the hazards.
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how.
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.
  4. Record your findings and implement them.
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary.

So long as you follow these five steps, you can’t go far wrong.

What does a risk assessment look like?

No safety risk assessment looks the same. However, it can be confusing to pinpoint exactly which type of assessment you need to carry out, and how each of them differ.

Even if you’re using a standard template, you will need to make changes to address the particular risks your workplaces faces.

So long as you follow the steps outlined above, your risk assessment should be accurate.

However, if you’d like a clearer picture of what a typical risk assessment looks like, you can download a free template at the bottom of this article.

Risk assessment template for the workplace

Croner provides several templates, including a workplace risk assessment form, policy, and guide. Download our own sample risk assessment here.

Can Croner help with risk assessments?

Your risk assessment process is a key component in robust health and safety measures in your organisation. The health & safety of your employees and visitors to your premises is your responsibility. Therefore you need to ensure that a responsible person is in place to conduct risk assessments, identify hazards and minimise operational risks.

Croner have a team of award-winning health & safety specialists who are on hand to advise businesses 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Why not speak to a Croner expert on 0800 124 4378?