This post might take you a little over 5 minutes to read. But it will be time well spent, because, by the end, you will know how to write a risk assessment. How to speed up the process. And, some free tools you can use to get started.
Risk assessments are a legal requirement and are needed in practically every business of every size. But a risk assessment should be much more than a document or paperwork. 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.
Before we look at how to write your risk assessment, let's consider how to perform a risk assessment. Because, to write a useful risk assessment, you need to have a risk assessment procedure in place.
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. Yes, risk assessments are required by law. Every employer (and self-employed person) should be performing risk assessments to comply with health and safety regulations.
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, before we get to writing the risk assessment, we actually need to carry out the first 3 steps, which are to identify the hazards, decide who is at risk, and evaluate the risks to decide on precautions.
Yes, you should end up with a risk assessment document. This written document is a record of the risk assessment process. If you have 5 or more employees, it's a legal requirement to write down your risk assessment. Even if you don't have 5 or more employees, writing down your risk assessment is good practice. It shows you have completed your risk assessment. And you may be asked for it by clients, your team, and others.
So before we start writing, let's quickly cover the first 3 steps to risk assessment. If you are unfamiliar with risk assessment and want a more detailed look, check out the 5 steps to risk assessment.
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?
What controls are needed?
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. Now, you can decide on the precautions that would be appropriate, to lower the level of risk and keep your workforce and others safe.
Now we have the information gathered from the first 3 steps of the risk assessment procedure, we can start writing our risk assessment. With your risk assessment documented, significant findings are recorded and can be communicated with your team. The document can be periodically reviewed and updated as necessary in the future.
Writing your risk assessments can be time-consuming, you need to go through your activity step by step (see the 5 steps to risk assessment), considering the hazards, people, the harm that could occur, and the controls needed to ensure the task or activity will be carried out safely.
The risk assessments you produce help you to communicate and manage the risks involved in your work. They can often be used as the subject of the safety briefing, or toolbox talk, carried out prior to the activity taking place.
A risk assessment is important and shouldn't be rushed. But we promised to show you how to write one in 5 minutes. And yes, there are some shortcuts you can take, to help you speed up writing your risk assessment.
But first remember, writing your risk assessment is only part of the risk assessment procedure. Make sure you go through each of the 5 steps.
A common mistake people make with risk assessments is to dove straight into the paperwork, without going through the earlier stages. This slows down the process and often leaves you with a document that isn't sufficient for the task. Only once you have covered the first few stages should you start recording your findings.
Ok, we know what a risk assessment is, and what the 5 steps are, so now how can we write one in 5 minutes?
There are a couple of tools you can use to help you:
The free risk assessment calculator helps you measure and prioritise your risks. You quickly know which controls to focus on, and the risk list can be copied across into your assessment.
Writing a risk assessment from scratch in 5 minutes might be a little tricky, but using templates can reduce the time spent on the less important stuff, like picking a layout, adding business details and making things look pretty. More time can be focused on important content, like hazards and controls.
You can create these templates yourself, or, to help you and your team reduce the time spent writing health and safety documentation, our health and safety experts prepare hundreds of ready to use health and safety documents, including risk assessment templates. These can be used by your business and adapted for your activities.
Risk assessment templates can save you time because:
You no longer need to worry about the layout.
We give you a standard layout for the risk assessment, following best practices like the 5 steps to risk assessment. If you have ever started creating a document from a blank sheet, you know how much time you can end up spending just deciding how to split the document up into sections, layout, tables etc.
They tell you what information is required.
Hazards, risk levels, controls, people at risk, just enter your task-specific details where they are needed.
Information is pre-completed.
Generic information for the task and controls needed are all pre-completed for you, so you can just make your edits, and add site-specific details.
You can choose from a variety of pre-completed risk assessments for activities such as groundworks, joinery, refurbishment, plumbing, from underground drainage to roof installation.
This makes writing your risk assessment in 5 minutes easy, just:
Want to start from scratch? We can still help you reduce the time you spend on your paperwork. You can download a blank risk assessment template for free to help you get started.
Need help with your risk assessments? We have a large library of risk assessment templates you can edit and use for your business activities.