Risk Assessment frequently asked questions
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Risk Assessment frequently asked questions

​The following frequently asked questions beneath this section have been compiled by the Health and Safety team. Should you not find answers to your questions, please get in touch via the Useful contacts page.


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Click to expandWhat is a risk assessment?

It's a method of identifying health and safety hazards and their associated risks to people. In the workplace this involves assessing the occupational health risks to employees and others affected by business activities. A risk assessment should identify how the risks arise and how they impact on those affected. 

Click to expandWhat's the purpose of risk assessment?

​You'll use the information gathered from your risk assessment to make decisions on how to manage risks in the workplace. Doing this in an informed, rational and structured manner will ensure that any action taken to reduce risks is appropriate. So the purpose of risk assessment is to produce an action plan to put in place controls to reduce workplace risks to as low a level as possible.

Click to expandWhy do I have to do a risk assessment?

​Risk assessments are a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It enables you as an employer to identify the measures you need to take to comply with health and safety law.

Risk assessment is an essential part of good health and safety management and makes good business sense. Apart from human suffering, there are numerous financial costs that result from poor health and safety in the workplace. These can include sick pay and arrangements for temporary staff, loss of earnings, costs of any damage after an accidents, poor reputation, compensation claims, insurance costs and prosecution and fines for failure to comply with the law.

Click to expandWhose risks am I legally responsible to assess?

​The risks to the health and safety of your employees, to which they are exposed whilst they are at work. 

The risks to the health and safety of any other persons, arising out of, or in connection with, your business activities.

Click to expandHow do I do a risk assessment?

​A risk assessment in the workplace should involve identifying the hazards present and evaluating the extent of the risks involved. A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm, a risk is the likelihood of potential harm from that hazard being realised. The extent of the risk will depend on:

• the likelihood of harm occurring from the hazard;
• the potential severity of that harm;
• the number of people which might be affected by the hazard and;
• whether there are any existing measures to control the risk and how effective these are.

The Health and Safety Executive recommends the following five steps to risk assessment as a guide:

1.Look for the hazards.
2.Decide who might be harmed and how.
3.Evaluate the risks and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done.
4.Record your findings.
5.Review your assessment and revise it if necessary.

Click to expandHow often should I do a risk assessment?

A risk assessment should be carried out whenever there is significant change in your business. For example when your workforce changes or you get lots of new equipment or premises. 

Certain activities also require a risk assessment. These include manual handling operations, use of hazardous substances, operations producing noise, working with asbestos and lead, operations that need personal protective equipment.

Click to expandHow often should my risk assessment be reviewed?

​Review whenever there's a change in circumstance in the workplace, but where a completely new risk assessment is not necessary. This would include things like taking on new or young members of staff, or if a member of staff becomes pregnant, as well as any new activities, equipment or changes to the premises/work environment. 

If an accident or a near miss occurs in your workplace, a risk assessment review is important to make sure that the accident doesn't happen again. 

If there's any other reason to suspect the risk assessment is no longer valid it should be reviewed. It's good practice to review assessments regularly to make sure they're still accurate and up to date. Health and safety risks should always be kept at the minimum possible level.

Click to expandWhy should I record a risk assessment?

​You are legally required to record the significant findings of your risk assessment if you employ 5 or more people in your business. An enforcement officer will always ask to see evidence of a risk assessment when they inspect your business. A clear and well recorded risk assessment helps to show that you've done what the law requires. 

Recording a risk assessment helps to make sure any important hazards aren't overlooked as well as helping to avoid any unnecessary repetition in the assessment process or review. A record also serves as a reminder of the priority hazards, standards to be maintained and what action has been - or still needs to be - taken.

Click to expandHow much will a risk assessment cost me?

​A risk assessment in itself needn't cost a lot. If do it yourself, depending on the size of your business, the main cost involved will be your time. 

The Health and Safety Executive produces practical guidance leaflets for most types of business and work activities. These are free to order on the HSE website www.hsebooks.co.uk, or by phoning 0178 788 1165. 

If you feel you need further information on certain activities your business undertakes, the HSE also produces a number of priced publications offering more in depth advice and guidance on different aspects of health and safety. These range from between £3 and £15 and are available from HSE Books as above. 

Remember that any time and money spent on risk assessment is well invested, as keeping good standards of health and safety in the workplace makes good business sense. Preventing incidences of occupational ill-health and accidents before they happen helps to avoid delays in production, as well as lowering the financial costs of sickness pay, damage to stock, poor reputation, low morale and compensation claims.


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