How to carry out a risk assessment

Any business that has employees is required to protect them by law. As part of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and as a business owner, you’re expected as a minimum to identify potential hazards or risks and decide how likely it is that someone will be harmed in this way. You should also take certain actions to reduce the risk of an accident or get rid of the hazard altogether.

One of the most effective ways to determine the risks and reduce their likelihood of occurring is with a risk assessment. Below, you can find out the steps involved in a risk assessment, how to complete one and how to ensure your employees are protected in the future too.

trailing wires in an office that pose a risk of tripping

How many steps are there to a risk assessment?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identifies five key steps to creating an acceptable risk assessment:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Assess the risks
  3. Control the risks
  4. Record your findings somewhere
  5. Review the risks in the future

The first step is to identify any hazards. Once you’ve got a list of potential risks, the second step is to assess each one. This involves thinking about how the risk could cause an accident, who it might affect and what further actions should be taken.

The third step is controlling those risks. This involves putting safety measures and steps in place. These could be additional handrails on stairs, wet floor signs, altering the layout of the space to make it easier to navigate, etc.

The fourth step involves recording your findings. This is where you will need to fill in a risk assessment form (if you employ five or more people).

The fifth step is an ongoing one and involves monitoring all risks and their proposed solutions to ensure that they’re working and that they don’t change or worsen.

How do you conduct a risk assessment?

Before you dive straight in to filling out a risk assessment form, you should first complete steps one and two above, so that you understand what the risks are within your business.

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How do you prepare a risk assessment?

First, you will need to do a thorough check of your premises and make a note of any potential hazards or places where accidents could occur. It may be worth asking employees what they consider to be a risk, as well as observing them in action and checking any accident books to see if there are any recurring incidents that need particular attention. Make notes of anything you spot as you go, as you’ll need to report these later.

Common hazards and risks include:

  • Trailing wires
  • Heavy machinery
  • Electricity
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Transport
  • Confined spaces
  • Hazardous substances
  • Noise
  • Manual handling
  • Stress

Once you have a list of risks, you should spend some time considering who these might affect, how they could cause an accident or personal injury and what you can do to make sure the risk of an incident is decreased. Again, making notes may be helpful.

Once you’ve done this preparation work, it’s time for the most important step – to remove the hazard altogether or, if this isn’t possible, put physical precautions in place. These could include replacing machinery, altering the layout of a room or space, adding warning signs where needed or providing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).

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How do you write a risk assessment report

This whole risk assessment should be recorded in a document that shows what considerations you’ve made and the control measures you’ve put in place.

Luckily, you don’t have to start this document from scratch or design it yourself. All Citation customers get access to a range of risk assessment templates that you can use to guide you through the process. Our health & safety consultants are also on hand 24/7 to answer any questions you may have. Remember, you can’t copy a risk assessment template from another business and simply alter the company name – your premises may have different hazards that will need to be taken into account individually.

Once your assessment is complete, you should continue to monitor potential risks in the workplace, especially if some circumstances change. For example, a risk assessment should be revisited when an employee tells you she is pregnant as there may be further precautions required to keep her safe while at work.

It’s very important that you return to the assessment every so often to make sure that the information included is still correct and that there are no new hazards to consider. It will also need to be amended when new staff come on board or there is a change to certain processes.

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