The five steps to risk assessment

There are five generally recognised steps to completing a risk assessment. These five steps can be used as a guide to help you think about the areas which you're required - by law - to cover in a risk assessment.

Working the five steps will involve some careful preparation, the process of actually assessing the risks and then taking action to reduce risks. In order to properly complete the steps, risk assessors need to have a good knowledge of the business, the workforce and activities going on.

The five steps to risk assessment are listed below. Follow the links to see what each step involves in a bit more detail.



Step one: identify the hazardStep one: identify the hazard<div class="ExternalClassDF2F03E7F5FD40E58852BE6D669D3577">The first stage of your risk assessment involves identifying the hazards in your workplace. The most important part of this step is a <strong>visual inspection</strong> of your workplace.<br><br>Before you get started though, a little preparation can help to make sure that you don't miss anything important. Risk assessment is not a desktop exercise but there's a lot of information and guidance out there that can help you get the practical part right:<br><br><strong>Free leaflets from the Health and Safety Executive </strong><br>There's lots of easy-to-read booklets on many different aspects of health and safety available free from HSE Publications or from your local authority health and safety team at Leeds City Council. See the toolkit for contact details. A full list of publications available can be found at <a href=""></a>  <br><br><strong>Existing safety documentation </strong><br>If your business already has some safety documents, these can be a very useful. For example an accident book will reveal the commonest hazards which are causing harm and therefore the associated risks which need to be addressed. Also look at things like fire inspection reports, insurance audits, equipment inventories and manufacturers guidance.<br><br><strong>Activities, processes and environment</strong><br>Once you've done a bit of reading try to list all the activities and processes that occur in connection with your business. Include any work going on away from the main premises like sales, deliveries or working from home. Start with the general things your company does and then look more specifically at what each of these involves. Remember that not everything will be directly related to 'work'- for example systems like the heating, lighting and ventilation.<br><br>Also write down all areas of the workplace that you will need to visually inspect for hazards. Don't forget things like rest facilities, fire escapes, delivery bays that might not be used as regularly as the main work areas. If you have a large premises, a floorplan is useful to do this.<br><br><strong>Visual inspection</strong><br>You must then follow up your preparation with the most important process of looking for the hazards in the workplace. This must involve touring the entire work premises to complete a comprehensive visual inspection.<br><br>It can be helpful to use a preliminary checklist of hazards if you identified any in your preparation.<br><br><strong>Be systematic </strong><br>This helps to ensure nothing is overlooked and the lists you prepared before you started will help you alot. Look at all areas of the workplace one at a time. Where possible also look at places where work is going on away from the main site.<br><br><br><strong>Look at what's happening </strong><br>Remember to look at everything that's going on. Find out whether what should be happening is what's really happening. This must include activities not directly involved with work and non routine activities like maintenance and emergency procedures.<br><br><br><strong>Talk to your colleagues</strong><br>Good health and safety management involves a lot of co-operation with employees. They reveal health and safety concerns that may need to be addressed and when it comes to controlling the risks, their co-operation is vital. Take advantage of their knowledge and experience of the workplace as they're the ones who know exactly what's going on from day to day.</div>
Step two: decide who is at riskStep two: decide who is at risk<div class="ExternalClass1EF2ECA3B21448C0890015894AD7DD71">​Making a checklist of everyone that could be affected by what's going on in your business is also useful for this step. It helps to make sure you can account for everyone who's risks you're responsible for assessing. This will include: <br><br>employees, both full time and part-time;<br>any temporary, voluntary or work experience people;<br>contractors - cleaners, window cleaners, or any maintenance personnel;<br>visitors, customers or clients.<br><br>Remember to consider members of the public if there's any way they could be affected by your business - for example if there's a public right of way across your car park, it's your responsiblity to provide safe walkways.<br><br><strong>Special considerations</strong><br>Your risk assessment should also take account anyone who may be more vulnerable to harm than others. For example:<br><br>young or elderly workers;<br>new or expectant mothers;<br>inexperienced staff or trainees who aren't as familiar with their work;<br>disabled employees;</div>
Step three: assess the risks and existing control measuresStep three: assess the risks and existing control measures<div class="ExternalClass8D6BC5237C9A4632A06CB72DA0A3E84F">​This step is where your judgement comes into play. By evaluating the risks associated with each hazard you have identified, you're deciding how likely it is that harm will occur from the hazard. This can depend on a number of factors which are outlined here.<br><br><strong>Frequency of contact with the hazard</strong><br>How often is the activity involving the hazard taking place?<br>How many people come into contact with it? Risks are higher when frequency of contact is higher.<br><br><strong>Severity of outcome</strong><br>Think about how serious the likely outcomes would be if harm from a hazard was realised. The risks are clearly higher if an accident is likely to result in serious injury or death, for example, than a bruise or a scratch.<br><br><strong>Who's doing what?</strong><br>Exactly which people are doing which jobs is very important when it comes to judging risks. Refer back to your specialconsiderations to see if anyone is more vulnerable to harm. Also bear in mind complicating human factors like attitudes and perception of risk when you are judging the level of risk.<br>Categorise to prioritise<br>It's important to categorise the risks as you are evaluating them. This helps to prioritise any further action that you intend to take to control risks, and concentrates action on the riskiest situations. Use the risk matrix in the toolkit to help you categorise risks as high, medium or low.<br><br><strong>Existing control measures</strong><br>At this stage you'll also need to consider what measures, if any, are already in place to control the risks. Are they adequate? Is the remaining risk high, medium or low? You'll need to decide whether the risks have been reduced as far as they reasonably can be, or whether more could be done.<br><br><strong>Further action</strong><br>If you decide that any risks haven't been controlled as far as possible, you'll need to think about what further action needs to be taken.<br><br>This essential part of your risk assessment forms your action plan to reduce risks. Your action plan describes the measures you intend to take to reduce risks. In the next section of the tutorial we'll look at how to decide on the most appropriate measures to use.</div>
Step four: record your findingsStep four: record your findings<div class="ExternalClassBEE46D9A83334348992730D98867B3B7">​Although the Management of Health and Safety at Work regulations say you only have to record your risk assessment if the business has five or more employees, it's best practice to record your findings regardless of how many employees you have. Writing everything down helps for a number of reasons:<br><br>It helps to avoid repetition or missing anything out.<br><br>You'll find a recorded risk assessment useful if you need to demonstrate compliance to a health and safety inspector. Similarly, you may be asked to provide health and safety information for your insurance company.<br><br>If you need to monitor certain hazards in the workplace and review your assessment in the future, records of your earlier risk assessments are very helpful to refer to.<br>Records are useful for getting information across to your employees, which you are legally required to do after a risk assessment.<br>Significant findings<br>The MHSWR regulations say that you have to record the significant findings your risk assessment. The approved codes of practice for these regulations define the significant findings as:<br><br><strong>*ACOP</strong><br><strong>A statement of all the hazards and their associated risks</strong><br>Include evidence that you've taken into account everyone who could be affected and their vulnerability. <br><br><strong>*ACOP</strong><br><strong>Existing measures to control the risks</strong><br>Your assessment of any measures already in place to control risks and how effective they are. <br><br><strong>*ACOP</strong><br><strong>Any necessary further action</strong><br>Outline what further action you will take, together with how and when you intend to do it. It's good practice to agree upon and assign responsibility for action to named members of staff. This should be recorded on the risk assessment, along with a date by when the measures should be in place.<br><br><strong>Communicating findings</strong><br>As it's for their benefit, it is vital that you communicate the significant findings of your risk assessment to your employees.<br><br>Make sure anyone who may be at risk is kept well informed. Employees should always be aware of what action is being taken to reduce the risks and how they are expected to work with any measures introduced.<br><br>The Health and Safety Consultation with Employees Regulations 1996 state that employers must consult their employees on all health and safety matters which affect them.</div>
Step five: monitor and reviewStep five: monitor and review<div class="ExternalClassA7AC3B98D0A34827829CB8C24AC2F1DE"><p>​The last consideration is monitoring and review of your risk assessment. The final step in the 'five steps' process, never really ends as monitoring and review of your risk assessment to make sure it stays valid is an ongoing process. The ultimate aim of risk assessment is to implement measures to remove or reduce the risks. Monitoring and review of circumstances must occur to see whether the measures implemented have reduced risks effectively and whether more needs to be done.<br><br>You'll need to check your risk assessment for certain hazards that require regular monitoring to keep the risks low - for example keeping walkways and fire exits clear, monitoring cooling towers for Legionella bacteria, or checking that staff are wearing correct items of personal protective equipment (PPE).<br><br><strong>When to review</strong><br>Things very rarely stay entirely constant in the workplace, so the assessment needs to take into account any change in the risks arising in the workplace. Review may be necessary if the following circumstances arise:<br><br><strong>When new members of staff are taken on </strong><br>You will need to re-consider who could be at risk and how they might be harmed if your staffing arrangements change. Remember that new members of staff are more vulnerable to harm as they are less familiar with their work and environment.<br><br><strong>If new machinery or equipment is introduced </strong><br>This may bring new hazards into the workplace which need to be considered. Even if only minor adjustments need to be made, they are important as it keeps the risk assessment up to date as the changes happen.<br><br><strong>If an accident or a near miss occurs </strong><br>It's important to find out why an incident has occurred and recognise that existing risk controls aren't adequate. Reviewing your risk assessment in these circumstances will help you decide what needs to be done to prevent future incidents.<br></p> <p><strong>Regular review</strong><br>It's also a good idea to decide on a regular pattern of review at the time of the initial assessment. How regularly would depend on whether the workplace was a low or high risk environment, and how frequently changes occur. A good general rule of thumb is to review annually.<br></p></div>



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