- What is risk assessment?
- How do I carry out a risk assessment?
- How will risk assessment help my business?
- Who can carry out a risk assessment?
- What should I cover in my risk assessment?
- Do I need to record my risk assessment?
- How do I put the risk assessment into action?
- When should I review and revise my risk assessment?
- If I have no employees do I still need to carry out a risk assessment?
- Where can I find a risk assessment template?
- Where can I find a worked example of a risk assessment?
Like any other area of your business, health and safety needs to be properly managed. To do this you need to know what the main hazards and risks are within your business so that you can control them effectively.
- a ‘hazard’ is anything that may cause harm
- the ‘risk’ is the chance, high, medium or low that somebody may be harmed by the hazard, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.
Whether you are reviewing your systems or setting them up for the first time you will need to take a careful look at all the things in your workplace which could cause people harm and decide whether there are enough control measures in place to prevent them from being harmed or whether more are required. This is called risk assessment.
There are five simple steps to carrying out a risk assessment:
Step 1 Identify the hazards
Step 2 Decide who might be harmed and how
Step 3 Evaluate the risks and decide on the precautions
Step 4 Record your findings and implement them
Step 5 Review your risk assessment and update it if necessary
Carrying out a risk assessment will help you to protect both the people who work there and any others who could be affected by your work activities, such as visitors to the premises or members of the public. It will also help you to comply with the law as all employers are required to make an assessment of the risks to which employees and others are exposed to while they are at work.
Any competent person can carry out a risk assessment but they should be familiar with the workplace and work processes. If you have a small company you may want to carry out the risk assessment yourself. If your company is larger you may decide to appoint a competent employee to do it. It is important that whoever carries out the risk assessment involves other employees who will have useful information about how the work is done that will make the risk assessment more thorough and effective.
The law does not expect you to eliminate every risk in your workplace but it does require you to take all reasonable steps to protect people. Your risk assessment should focus on those things in your workplace that have the potential to cause real harm.
If you have five or more employees by law you must record the results of your risk assessment. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down, though it is useful so that you can review it at a later date if, for example, something changes.
Carrying out a risk assessment is essential, but it will only be effective if you act upon your findings and communicate them effectively with your employees so that they know how to work safely. Make an action plan for putting the necessary improvements in place and prioritise, dealing with those hazards that are high risk and could have serious consequences first.
You should review your risk assessment on an ongoing basis. An annual review makes sense but you may need to revisit your risk assessment sooner than this if there has been a significant change within your business. This could be a change to a work process, a piece of work equipment or a change in staff which may have introduced new hazards or increased the risk of existing ones.
If you don’t employ anybody you still need to assess the risks to yourself and others who may be affected by your work activities.
The following templates will give you an idea of the kind of information that you need to record when completing a risk assessment.
If you have 5 employees or more we would recommend that you use the original Risk Assessment Template.
If however you are; self-employed, work in a low risk environment or have less than 5 employees, we would recommend the Risk Assessment Template (low risk/self-employed/less than 5).
If you have less than 5 employees you may also find the Combined Health and Safety Policy & Risk Assessment Template useful as it combines your health and safety policy and risk assessment into one document.
Please feel free however to record and store the information in any form you choose. You are not required to use these formats.
Risk Assessment Template (114KB) pub 02/11
Risk Assessment Template (low risk/self-employed/less than 5) (904KB) pub 07/10
Combined Health and Safety Policy & Risk Assessment Template (0.98MB) pub 07/10
The following risk assessment shows how a small office-based company might approach risk assessment within their work. This example can be used as a guide when thinking about the hazards in your own business and the steps that you would need to take in order to control the risks.
Example Risk Assessment for an Office-Based Business (231KB) pub 02/11
You can also find some useful worked examples of risk assessments on the HSE website at:
Where can I get more help?
Download the HSE leaflet '5 steps to risk assessment' (78.2KB) pub 06/06
If you would like to discuss risk assessment with one of our business advisers please Contact Us or complete and submit the form on the On-site Visits page.