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17th August, 2016

How to perform a risk assessment

A risk assessment should be much more than a document, so rather than just looking at how to write a risk assessment, let's consider how to perform a risk assessment.

It is a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of their work. Every employer and self-employed person should be performing risk assessments to comply with the law.

Yes, you should end up with a risk assessment document, to record the risk assessment process, particularly if you have 5 or more employees, as this is also a legal requirement.

However, the actual writing of the risk assessment is only 20% of the risk assessment process. It is Step 4 of the 5 steps to risk assessment.

So if writing the risk assessment is only part of the process, how exactly do you perform a risk assessment?

The aim of your risk assessment is to reduce the risks arising from the activity or task you are assessing, as low as is reasonably practical.

What are the hazards?

You should first identify the hazards, to do this, you need to look at how the activity is carried out, the tools used, the work procedure, the environment.

Familiarise yourself with the work and how it is completed. Are instructions and method statements being followed? Are shortcuts being taken? If so, why?

Those carrying out the activity (if you are not directly involved in the task) will be able to provide valuable information on the work and any challenges or problems encountered.

Who is at risk?

Consider who might be harmed, is it just those completing the work, or are risks to other staff, or visitors, or even members of the public, if things go wrong?

How high is the risk?

Once you have a good idea of the hazards and who might be harmed, you can then begin to evaluate the risks. Considering the likelihood of harm occurring, and how serious the consequences could be.

What controls are needed?

Now you can decide on the precautions that would be appropriate, to lower the level of risk and keep your workforce and others safe.

Record your findings

Then, your risk assessment can be documented, with significant findings recorded so that it can be communicated with your team, and periodically reviewed and updated as necessary in the future.

Need help with your risk assessments? We have a large library of risk assessment templates you can edit and use for your business activities.

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