A Guide to Risk Assessments

Managing risks within the workplace is essential to the smooth running of any business. It also safeguards your business from accidents and will save you money and protect your reputation should the worst happen.

One of the primary areas of managing risk within the workplace is to conduct a risk assessment, to identify the potential hazards you or your colleagues could face in any given situation.

Below, Safety Padding provides a comprehensive guide to risk assessments, outlining why they are so important and the key steps that need to be taken in order to achieve one.

Defining risk assessment

A risk assessment is an examination of what in your day to day work could cause potential harm to another person. A risk assessment is an ideal opportunity to think about and weigh up whether you've taken enough precautions to prevent harm or whether there is more you could do to help prevent an accident. If a level of risk is identified, it is a company's duty to provide a risk assessment addressing what actions should and will be taken to reduce the highlighted risk.

Why do a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is essential if you wish to protect your employees and your business. You will also be complying with the law.

When should a risk assessment be carried out?

A risk assessment should be carried out before you or any other employees conduct any work that could present a risk of injury or ill-health. In every business, it is essential that a nominated representative has attended risk assessment training to ensure they are competent to carry out a risk assessment when required. The chosen candidate will need to be competent in subjects such as hazard identification and the ability to categorise and evaluate risks.

How to complete a risk assessment

There are no fixed rules on how a risk assessment should be carried out, but the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) do outline a 5-step list of guidelines that should be followed. Safety Padding lists the five steps below:

1. Identify hazards

Candidates should recognise the difference between a 'hazard' and a 'risk'. A hazard has the potential to cause harm whereas a risk is realising what that potential harm could be, before it actually happens. You can identify hazards by walking around the workplace and speaking to employees. Think about what activities and processes or substances could injury a person or harm their health. Ways to identify hazards include:

  • Checking manufacturer's instructions
  • Looking at accident and ill-health records
  • Recognising and take account of non-routine operations such as maintenance, cleaning etc
  • Considering long-term hazards to health such as high levels of noise or possible exposure to harmful substances

2. Recognise who might be harmed and how

Once you've identified the potential hazards within the workplace, you need to understand which people could be at risk of these hazards. Some of the more obvious types of people that could be affected include:

  • Workers with disabilities
  • Expectant or new mothers
  • Young workers
  • Remote workers
  • Contract and maintenance workers
  • Visitors to the workplace

3. Evaluate the risks and how to control them

Now you have identified the hazards, decided who might be at risk and how they could be affected, you need to create methods to protect those people who are susceptible. You can either set about removing all the potential hazards (it is highly unlikely you'll be able to achieve this), or the next best option is to find suitable ways to control the risks so that injury to other people becomes unlikely. In order to manage the risks successfully, it is a good idea to identify them using a grading system starting with, 'extremely high', 'high', 'medium', 'low risk' and 'not a priority'.

4. Record your findings

Always write down your risk assessment findings - where there are five or more employees in the work place this is a legal requirement. By recording the findings you can illustrate you have identified the hazards, decided who could be harmed and how, and provided a plan to eliminate the risks and hazards. When writing up each risk, try to keep it as concise as possible and stick to a template. On the template, we advise you include the following:

  • What is the hazard
  • Who might be affected by the hazard
  • What measures are in place to resolve the issue
  • Anything that needs to be done to control the issue
  • The priority level of the risk
  • Who will action each risk
  • Date the risk will be resolved

5. Regularly review it

No work place will remain the same, so to account for the constant changes your risk assessment should be regularly reviewed and updated as and when required in order to remain compliant with the law.



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