Step by Step Guide to Risk Assessments

Managing risks in the workplace is a critical feature of running a business and safeguarding your business from accidents will save you money and reputation damage in the long run. A fundamental part of managing risk is to conduct a risk assessment. In this guide, we will help to define what a risk assessment is, why it is important and what the key steps are to achieving one.

Risk Assessment Defined

Risk in the context of an assessment is defined as “How likely it is that somebody could be harmed by a hazard and an indication of how serious that harm could be.

Essentially, a risk assessment is an evaluation of all the elements of your working environment and assessing how severe the consequence of that hazard is as well as the likelihood that an accident will occur as a result of it. Companies must also state what actions should and will be taken to reduce the highlighted risk.

A risk assessment is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as:

A careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.

The Importance of Having a Risk Assessment

  • Risk Assessments highlight and create a work-wide awareness of potential dangers. They also create an awareness for whether adequate measures are in place.
  • Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, it is a legal requirement to conduct a risk assessment.
  • Accidents in the workplace can lead to financial damages that can come not only for maintenance needed from resulting damage but also from law suits from workers due to improper safety measures in place.
  • Damages can also be reputational. These reputational damages can directly influence the potential of a business to hire and retain the best employees as well as attract new business.

The Key Steps to Risk Assessment

There is no pre-defined way that a risk assessment should be conducted but there are guidelines presented by the HSE who suggest a 5 step process.

Step 1: Identify Hazards

The first step to conducting a thorough Risk Assessment is the identification of hazards and potential areas of harm, each industry will throw up different risks and hazards but some example areas to consider are:

  • Machinery
  • Physically Taxing Requirements e.g. lifting
  • Asbestos
  • Chemicals
  • Working at Heights
  • Noise Levels

Walking around your facilities, looking at illness and health records and consulting with employees are methods that you can use to gather the information that you need.

Step 2: Understanding Who Might be Harmed and How

The next step in the process is understanding the people that might be at risk by the hazards identified in step 1. The identification should be for groups of people or job titles rather than individuals as well as by on a hazard by hazard basis.

The types of people that can be affected by your work practices can have unique requirements and don’t have to be employed by you, so think about:

  • Workers with disabilities
  • Young workers
  • Expectant or new mothers
  • People who work from home
  • Contractors & maintenance workers
  • Those who share your office space
  • Visitors
  • Members of the public

Step 3: Risk Evaluation and Control Measure Decision Making

In this phase you should what the likelihood and severity of each hazard is as well as what action will be taken to minimise that risk. Unfortunately even with action taken you cannot eliminate all the risk and thus are not expected to. Instead you must do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm.

This step will help you to prioritize the actions that should be taken. We suggest using a matrix to analyse harm and likeliness and using a priority of rating:

  • Extremely High
  • High
  • Medium
  • Low
  • Not a Priority

If your business operates a number of similar workplaces which undertake similar activities, you can produce what is known as a model risk assessment reflecting the common hazards and risks associated with these activities.

Step 4: Record the Findings

When writing up your findings try and keep them as concise, focused and simple as possible. We recommend using a template that covers:

  • What the hazard is
  • Who might be affected
  • What is being done to resolve the issue
  • What else needs to be done to control the issue
  • What priority level the risk is
  • Who should action this
  • Date of when this should be done

Step 5: Review the Assessment

The Risk Assessment should be a living document so should be continuously updated and amended as you go along. By continuously revisiting the document you also ensure that it stays up to date and compliant with the law.


If you need any safety advice or want to know how you can protect your business then contact us today.