7th June, 2023
Not sure what to include in your risk assessment? What information should your risk assessment contain? When you create a risk assessment, some information is essential. In this blog post, we look at 11 must-have elements to make your risk assessments great.
So you might think that a risk assessment only needs 5 things, especially if you are familiar with the 5 steps to risk assessment.
And it's true - your risk assessment should contain those 5 steps.
But what else?
There are some other essential elements you certainly don't want to leave out to make sure your risk assessment complies with legal requirements.
It doesn't matter if you are trading as a company or if you are self-employed, a risk assessment is a legal requirement.
You'll want to make sure that your business name (e.g. the name of your company, your trading name, or your name) is included in your risk assessment.
If you need to show your risk assessment to a client, your team, or the HSE, you'll want them to know it's yours and applies to your work.
A professional-looking risk assessment can help impress clients when you are pricing for work, adding your branding/logo is a nice touch.
The purpose of your risk assessment is to keep people safe. That could mean you, your team, or anyone else who could be harmed by your work.
Different activities will often be carried out by different people, in different places, in different conditions, and at different times.
Detailing the activity at the top of your risk assessment means that:
So what activity does your risk assessment apply to?
Ok, now we are getting into the 5 steps to risk assessment.
You've added your business details and the activity, but you haven't assessed anything yet! That all changes now as you start to identify the hazards involved with the activity.
What could harm people when you do this activity?
Your risk assessment should contain a list of all the hazards involved, so you can decide how best to control them.
Find out more about spotting hazards in the definition of a hazard and 45 workplace examples.
Now you have your hazards (the things that could harm someone) written down, it's time to include the people at risk.
These are the people that you need to protect when planning the activity.
The people at risk could be:
Your risk assessment should also consider how the people you identified as at risk might be harmed - and how serious it could be.
To calculate risk, you can assess the likelihood of harm occurring, and the severity of the harm, to get a risk level.
Let's go back to our definition of risk. A health and safety risk is the chance (likelihood) that somebody could get harmed (severity) by a hazard.
You can use a risk matrix to figure out your risk level. A simple scale like low, medium, and high, will be easily understood on your document.
You could use a more detailed 9x9 matrix (like in our free risk assessment calculator) to make your initial assessment.
If this is an activity you are already doing or have done before (or similar), chances are you already have some controls in place.
Maybe you are using tools with sharp blades, and you always wear gloves when you use that equipment. That's a control. Gloves give your hands some protection from projectiles and contact with the blade.
Maybe you are working at height, and you use a tower scaffold as a working platform. That's another control. It gives you a safe working platform and lowers the risk compared to working off a ladder.
Not all controls are equal - see the hierarchy of risk control for a list of the types of controls, from most effective to least effective.
Ideally, your risk assessment aims to reduce the risk until it is unlikely. You don't want people to get hurt doing the activity, so you need to put controls in place to prevent harm.
You're not expected to remove risk completely, there will always be some residual risk - but it should be as low as practical in consideration of the risk.
You don't have to pick one control measure per hazard - often a combination of controls will be the best way to make the task safe.
Risk is never zero. Hopefully, once you have done a risk assessment and put the controls in place, the remaining risk will be much lower, and the hazards controlled.
The remaining risk level will determine the level of ongoing supervision and monitoring needed.
If it's low, then work is safe to proceed.
If it's still a high-risk task, you might need to create a method statement or carry out the activity under a permit to work.
If you identify a very high or uncontrolled risk, and someone is likely to get hurt, then it's not safe to proceed. Work should stop until further action is taken.
Risk assessments should be regularly reviewed, so putting a date on your risk assessment is essential.
The date tells you when the risk assessment was carried out, so you can know if it is out of date because:
Always add the assessor's details to your risk assessment in case any questions pop up.
Maybe something's not quite clear, or someone needs more information, has a problem, or even has a suggestion.
This is especially important if the person doing the assessment isn't the same as the person doing the task.
The best way to keep improving your health and safety culture and standards is to encourage good communication channels within your team.
Speaking of communication, you'll want to share your risk assessment with the members of your team involved with the activity. And they should agree and understand how to use the control measures in place for their safety.
It's good to get a record or ackowledgement from your team by signing to agree to the risk assessment.
This gives you a record of who has been shown the risk assessment. Now you know who still needs to see it before they start an activity.
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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