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5th June, 2019

The Dynamic Risk Assessment And When To Use It

We recently wrote about the 5 types of risk assessment. This list included the dynamic risk assessment. Dynamic risk assessments are a special type of risk assessment. They should only be used in certain circumstances, although many types of risk assessment can include dynamic elements.

So let's take a look at the dynamic risk assessment in more detail, and when you would use one.

What is Dynamic Risk Assessment?

Before we think about using a dynamic risk assessment, we need to know what it means. We can start with the definition of the word dynamic. It's defined in the Oxford Dictionary as 'constant change'.


  1. (of a process or system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.

The 5 steps to risk assessment involve identifying hazards and assessing risk. If something constantly changes, how we can we risk assess it? What if we can't know all of the hazards that will be present until we start work? What if new hazards get introduced during the task? For example, if part of your job involves dealing with rapidly changing or unpredictable situations, how can you risk assess them?

Think of the emergency services, for example. When a police officer responds to an emergency call, what will they be dealing with? How will they know what they will be dealing with? They will have some information from the call for help. But it might not be accurate. The situation may have changed by the time they reach the scene.

The continuous process of identifying hazards, assessing risk, taking action to eliminate or reduce risk, monitoring and reviewing, in the rapidly changing circumstances of an operational incident.

Home Office Dynamic Management of Risk at Operational Incidents

A dynamic risk assessment is a process of assessing risk in developing and changing situations. You might not always be able to know the exact level of risk ahead of time. The risk levels might need to be continually assessed, even during the task or activity carried out. Going back to our emergency services example, as the situation develops, the risk level may change. This is when a dynamic risk assessment might need to be used. Has the risk level increased so far that they need to call for back-up or specialist help? Has it decreased the point they are safe to leave?

Dynamic risk assessment is often used to cope with unknown risks and handling uncertainty.

They allow for:
  • Flexibility
  • Continual assessment
  • Changing environments

Because they are performed on the spot, usually by the person involved in the task, they require:

  • Additional training required
  • Good decision-making skills
  • Understanding of hazards and risks

Using Dynamic Risk Assessments

Dynamic risk assessments are a useful tool to have when you are dealing with unknowns. But they should only be used to enhance your risk assessment process. A written risk assessment should still be used to assess the level of 'unknown' risks. Don't forget, carrying out a risk assessment is a legal requirement, and if you employ 5 or more people, it must be written down.

When using dynamic risk assessment, you should still think about what risks are known, and how these can be controlled. Likely and expected risks need to be controlled, as normal.

Where a certain element of dynamic risk analysis is required, workers need to have the skills and awareness to recognise and deal with danger. If there are significant changes, is the original risk assessment still valid? Should you try to deal with the situation? Is it safe to continue?

risk assessment checklist
Should you deal with the situation? How?

Extra training will be needed to make sure that the correct decisions are made. Dynamic risk assessments and the choices made should still be recorded (sometimes after the issue has been dealt with). These decisions may still need to be explained and justified, especially if something goes wrong. Those carrying out a dynamic risk assessment will need to be able to assess a range of hazards and understand how to control them.

For example, delivery drivers won't always know the hazards that will be present when they reach the location or site they are delivering to. Is there safe access, any obstructions, overhead services, other vehicles, pedestrians, exposed edges etc. There could be a whole range of hazards present.

A dynamic risk assessment form [...] can be completed by drivers (who have been trained in how to complete them) if they arrive at premises where there are unexpected hazards...

In any situation when unexpected hazards may be present, the person completing the dynamic risk assessment needs to know what they are doing. A dynamic risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient, just like any other risk assessment. Have the risks been fully assessed, and controlled?

Dynamic risk assessments are often used where quick action is needed. Because they cannot always be written down until after the event, they are easy to misinterpret. Unless communication skills are excellent, dynamic risk assessments are best suited to tasks involving a single person or small teams. Clear channels of communication are needed to make sure that everyone involved understands the decisions that have been made, and follows the agreed procedures.

A dynamic risk assessment does not replace a risk assessment. It can, however, compliment a risk assessment, when used as a way of assessing any unknowns that cannot be predicted or change during the task.

Need help assessing risks? Start with our free risk assessment calculator, or take a look at our pre-completed risk assessment templates.

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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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