Risk Assessments

All about risk assessments

Risk assessments make every workplace safer.  But, out of all the aspects of health and safety, risk assessments are the one topic that cause the most trouble.  And it’s such a shame because not only are they the foundation stone of a good H&S system, they are the solution to most H&S issues.  Because they can seem daunting, people shy away from doing them, but risk assessments are the Competent Person’s best friend: a well-thought-out risk assessment is a powerful tool which can be used to persuade even the most cynical director or manager of the path they have to take.  It’s very difficult to argue against a good risk assessment!

Once you have understood the difference between a HAZARD and a RISK, you’re well on the way to cracking the risk assessment conundrum.  All is explained in the pages in this section.

The Right Approach for your Organisation

An important principle to remember is to be proportionate in how you manage H&S.  In industries where hazards abound e.g. construction, mining, chemical plants, farming and fishing for example, it is important to have separate risk assessments for each work operation.  But in lower-risk environments such as an office-based organisation, one risk assessment covering all hazards will probably suffice.

There are five steps to risk assessing:

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

Ultimately, the decision as to how you will put risk assessments in place in your organisation is down to the competent Person and Senior Management.  But when you have completed this section, you will know how to do this.


  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Health and Safety Myth

Risk assessments, done correctly, will prevent unnecessary control measures

Fans were banned from taking umbrellas into an outdoor JLS concert because they posed a health and safety risk.

This clearly was not a health and safety issue, in spite of the claims made by the organisers.  If umbrellas really were a health and safety risk, they would need to be banned in busy high streets!  The real issue was those at the front obscuring everyone else's view of the concert if they had umbrellas up.  Appealing to the concertgoers' common sense and courtesy should have been enough.

Frequently asked questions

Read every section of this category!  That is really the best thing you can do to get started on the risk assessing journey.

No risk assessment should be written by one person. An experienced CP will have a good idea of what control measures should be put in place to minimise risks from an identified hazard and can get the risk assessment process started. But the people at the front line, those working with the hazard in question, are the ones who will have the best ideas about controlling the risks. So involve them in the process, discuss the controls with them, BUT also make sure they are doing things safely and haven’t fallen into bad habits! Complacency can set in with repetitive tasks and shortcuts get used. The CP should be able to look at an issue dispassionately and note any bad practices.  There should be control measures put in place to deal with the risk of complacency e.g., rotating of tasks, regular breaks, unscheduled checks etc. If any accidents or near misses occur, the investigation will identify any additional control measures that should be introduced.

Just the risk assessment form. That’s it – that’s all you need. There are many different types of risk assessment forms, and it’s easy to be tempted by big, colour-coded, complicated-looking documents, but it’s important to keep it simple. The audience for the risk assessment is the workforce. They must be able to make sense of it without having to spend ages trying to fathom how the form works.