Risk assessment

06 January 2020

Risk assessments can help you decide if reasonable precautions are in place to protect your employees and others who may be affected by your activities.

A person holding a clipboard with pen poised

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment involves thinking about what might cause harm to people and then deciding if the precautions already in place are adequate. If they are not, the assessment usually identifies further action needed to prevent any danger.

Risk assessments and the law

If you are an employer - you will need to complete a risk assessment under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. They will need to meet specific requirements. For example, the risk assessment must consider the steps you need to take to comply with relevant health and safety regulations. 

If you employ five or more employees - you must keep a record of your risk assessments. This is not only a legal requirement but it can provide evidence that you have met your duty of care where a claim arises.

It is worth remembering that even if you are not an employer but own or control premises, you may still have to complete detailed risk assessments for certain hazards (e.g. asbestos, fire). These will have to meet specific requirements and in some cases, you may need specialist assistance with this.   

Completing a risk assessment

Completing a risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork. It is about identifying sensible precautions. The level of detail required should be proportionate to the risk. 
Smaller organisations may present few or simple hazards, the risk assessment can be based on informed judgement and reference to appropriate guidance. 
Larger or complex risks usually need more in-depth assessment. For some hazards (such as asbestos), you may be required to implement specific precautions. Your assessment should help you identify where this is the case.
Of course, completing risk assessments on their own won’t prevent accidents happening. You must take the precautions you have identified as being necessary.

Need to make a risk assessment?

Risk assessments must be completed by someone competent. Completing one usually involves:
  1. Identifying the hazards at premises and those associated with work activities, deciding who might be harmed and how.
  2. Deciding if precautions are adequate, implementing any additional ones that might be required.
  3. Documenting and reviewing  assessments where this is necessary
  4. Ensuring that the findings of risk assessments are communicated to all employees.
Documenting arrangements and responsibilities for completing risk assessments, reviewing these where necessary, particularly if they are no longer valid. You can find further information in our guide to risk assessments, including the possible actions you can take depending on your circumstances.