1st February, 2023

How To Write A Risk Assessment In 5 Minutes

Risk assessments are a legal requirement and are needed in practically every business of every size. Writing your risk assessments can be time-consuming, you need to go through your activity step by step, but we can help you write your risk assessment in just 5 minutes.

How To Write A Risk Assessment In 5 Minutes header image

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:

Risk assessments are a legal requirement needed in every business of every size. Every employer (and self-employed person) should complete risk assessments to comply with health and safety regulations.

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.

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.

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 before the activity takes place.

Risk assessment is more than paperwork

It's easy to think that a risk assessment is just paperwork. But it's so much more than that. Risk assessment is a process.

Yes, you should finish with a risk assessment document.

filling in a document with a pen

But this written document is a record of the risk assessment process. It is not the process.

A detective will get back to her office and write up a record of what people have told her and what evidence she's found. The paperwork isn't the work - it's a record of the work. You are like that detective, but you're hunting for hazards instead of criminals!

This blog post will show you how to write a risk assessment in 5 minutes, 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 you get to writing the risk assessment, you need to carry out the first 3 steps, which are:

  1. identify the hazards
  2. decide who might be harmed and how
  3. evaluate the risks to decide on precautions

A common mistake people make with risk assessments is to dive 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.

Don't start writing your risk assessment until you have covered the first few steps. Otherwise, you are skipping over 50% of the work!

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 you need to know to write a risk assessment

To complete your risk assessment document, you will need to know some essential information about the task you are assessing.

What are the hazards?

Hazards are the first thing you need to know before you write your risk assessment. Because the first section of your risk assessment will list the - you guessed it - hazards.

To identify hazards, look at how the activity is carried out, the tools used, the work procedure, and 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?

do not enter sign

This is where you become like a detective because you can't see hazards from your desk. You need to check the environment where the task happens and speak to the people involved.

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?

Before you can protect people, you need to know who might be harmed by the work - and how.

Consider who could get hurt. Is it just those completing the work, or are other staff, visitors, or even the public at risk, if things go wrong?

What controls are needed?

Once you have a good idea of the hazards involved and who might be harmed, you can 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.

And you can put all this information together to write the risk assessment!

How to write your risk assessment

Now you have the information gathered from the first three steps of the risk assessment process, you can finally start writing the risk assessment!

person in suit writing

And this is where you should already notice the benefits of your preparation. Because you have a list of:

And this is all the information you need. The risk assessment document is a record of significant findings from your risk assessment process (that you have just done!).

How you write your risk assessment is up to you, but you need to include all the necessary information about the hazards and how to control the risk.

Here's an example for a spill hazard:

Hazard: Spillages

Risk: Workers could slip over

Controls: - All spillages are cleaned up immediately - Spills kits available - Wet floor signage provided - Workers wear non-slip footwear

Most activities involve several hazards, and you should list them all in your risk assessment document.

wet floor sign

Remember, you're not writing a letter, so break down large sections of text into lists or instructions. Use headings, tables, and layouts so that the people reading your assessment can understand and follow it.

You can use the free risk assessment template to get an easy-to-follow layout for each section.

How long does a risk assessment take?

It depends.

The time it takes will depend on the complexity of the activity, how many people are involved, how familiar you are with the tasks and the team, and if it involves any unusual hazards.

Sorry, we can't give you an exact time, but a risk assessment is important - you shouldn't rush it.

We promised to show you how to write one in 5 minutes, and we will get to that shortly. 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.

Risk assessments can be time-consuming because you need to go through your activity step by step (see the 5 steps to risk assessment).

You need to consider the hazards, people, the harm that could occur, and the controls needed to ensure the task or activity will be carried out safely. And that takes time before you can put pen to paper (or keyboard to screen).

And is a risk assessment ever really finished? After you have written your document, you will need to regularly review your risk assessment and update it as necessary.


How to write risk assessments quickly

Ok, we know what a risk assessment is, and what the 5 steps are, so now how can you write one in 5 minutes?

There are a couple of tools you can use to help speed things up:

Use tools

Wondering how to calculate and measure risk can slow you down when you need to assess multiple hazards - because much of risk measurement is down to the assessor's opinion.

risk assessment calculator tool image

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.

Use templates

Writing a risk assessment from scratch in 5 minutes might be a little tricky, but you can use templates to reduce the time spent on the less important stuff, like picking a layout, adding business details and making things look pretty.

If you are worrying less about how to make your risk assessment look good, you can spend more time on the important content, like hazards and controls.

You can create templates as generic risk assessments that you can adapt for each project or site you work on.

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. You can use these templates in your business and adapt them to your activities.

risk assessment template image

Risk assessment templates can save you time because:

You no longer need to worry about the layout

You get 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.

Templates tell you what information is required

The template has each section and header ready to go.

It's ready for you to 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 groundwork, joinery, refurbishment, plumbing, from underground drainage to roof installation.

Using a pre-completed template 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.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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