Risk Assessment

  • Risk Assessment
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll look at what a risk assessment is, whether they're a legal requirement, and how to conduct them for different Health & Safety issues.

Workplaces can present all kinds of safety hazards - affecting their staff, as well as the public. A great way to help identify and control these is by using a risk assessment.

Risk assessments come in all shapes and sizes; so, employers must use them in accordance with their work practices. You must be aware of the consequences of neglecting this legal duty. Employers could end up facing personal injuries claims, business closure, and even imprisonment (if applicable).

In this guide, we'll look at what a risk assessment is, whether they're a legal requirement, and how to conduct them for different Health & Safety issues.

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is the process of identifying, analysing, and controlling hazards in the workplace.

Depending on the issue, a risk assessment help employers implement control measures to eliminate risks found within their work practices.

Some businesses will only need basic risk assessments, like an office. Whilst others may require specific ones, like a construction site. It all depends on the identified hazard – and to not let it cause harm to anyone on the business premises.

Why are risk assessments important?

Risk assessments are probably one of the best measures when it comes to identifying hazards at work. They help ensure the safety of employees and non-employees (like customers, contractors, and the public).

A proper risk management process can also help employers understand what personal protective equipment (PPE), control measures, and legal compliance applies to their business.

When you follow the right steps, you're guaranteed to promote a secure workplace and prioritise risk analysis in the best manner.

Are there different types of risk assessments?

Yes, there are different types of risk assessments employers can use. That's because all business industries present their own kind of specific workplace hazards and risks.

There are three general assessments employers can use:

  • Large-scale risk assessment: This is performed in larger workplaces that present complex hazards or require careful examination. For example, managing harm from toxic gas by using a quantitative risk assessment.
  • Required-specific risk assessment: This is used due to specific legislation or regulations. For example, minimising harm caused by hazardous substances (according to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 or COSHH).
  • General risk assessment: This is used to control general workplace hazards. For example, managing harm caused by unsuitable temperature and ventilation (according to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 or HSWA)

When do you perform a risk assessment process?

Employers must legally perform risk assessments to eliminate operational risks to staff and anyone found in their workplace. You must use them when:

  • Introducing a new systematic process into everyday work processes.
  • Changing an existing work process.
  • Using work equipment, materials, or methods that present certain risks.

Do you need to report risk assessments findings to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)?

Only certain risk assessment findings need to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE is a UK government agency that's responsible for encouraging, regulating, and enforcing health, safety, and welfare in the workplace. Employers may need to identify and report hazards linked to:

Who should carry out a risk assessment?

A risk assessment can only be carried out by a competent person. This can be the employer, a trained employee, or a professional Health & Safety auditor.

Competent people must be experienced in assessing hazard injury severity, judging likelihood of occurrence, and applying reasonable control measures. Employers should work alongside their competent person when it comes to planning risk assessments. Think about:

  • Scope: Outline the scope of your risk assessment, as this will help with identifying what resources you'll need. Be specific about what you're assessing (i.e., is it your current work process or new equipment you want to introduce).
  • Resources: List equipment, materials, or work assets used to carry out the risk assessment. Highlight which risk analysis methods you plan to use and their effectiveness.
  • Involvement: Make a note of all affected people identified within your risk assessment plan. This could be managers, workers, or even the public. Consider other factors that might cause harm to individual people.
  • Compliance: Think about any laws and regulations your risk assessment must comply with. Without compliance, you could face hefty fines, business closure, and even imprisonment. Consider any internal policies and practices that might be affected by the risk assessment, too.

Once you've planned the foundation of your risk assessment, you'll be able to conduct them across your entire business.

How to conduct a risk assessment in the workplace

Every workplace will present their own kinds of risks - some might be minor, others major. Despite that, all employers have a legal duty when it comes to conducting risk assessments.

With the right risk assessment, you'll be able to protect employees and anyone connected to your business. In the end, they can help create a safer workplace and encourage business success.

All employers must comply with the HSE’s ‘Risk Assessment: A Brief Guide to Controlling Risks in the Workplace’. This provides detailed guidance on how to conduct a risk assessment for your workplace. Let's take a look at the steps:

Identify potential hazards

The first step involves identifying potential hazards found in the workplace. Employers must think about risks linked to their equipment, materials, and work practices.

It's important to identify hazards and risks as separate factors. Hazards have the ability to cause harm to people, property, or the environment. Risks have the ability to actually cause harm or damage to other parties.

Assess who might be harmed

Employers should assess which specific people might be harmed by hazards. Identify anyone that's considered to be at lower, medium, and higher risk (i.e., like pregnant workers). These people may require further safety steps when it comes to hazards.

You should also think of potential harm to non-workers found on your premises. For example, causing harm to contractors, customers, or the public. You must assess risks to them as they fall under your legal duty of care.

Evaluate the risks

The next step is all about evaluating risks found within your working process. You'll need to evaluate the severity of the hazards identified; and think about how severe they could impact others. Remember, the bigger the hazards, the more effective controls you may need.

Some risk assessments may identify the need for protective personal equipment (PPE) or safety training for manual handling tasks. From here, you'll be able to implement preventive and protective measures to control risks.

Record significant findings

Employers should then record all significant findings found through assessments. This can be done using paper or digital risk assessment forms. Some risk findings may class as low, medium, and high. For more complicated workplaces, you may need to score risks individually based on their severity and occurrence.

Employers should aim to permanently eliminate hazards and risks - or to use control measures to minimise them within reason. If you hire five or more workers, you must document risk assessment findings. This will help improve your future work practices and protect you from potential liability claims.

Review your risk assessment

The last step is reviewing your risk assessment. Once you identify hazards, you need to implement changes into your work process. It's best to review assessments again after any significant work changes or legislative amendments.

If employees (or non-employees) face ill-health or injury due to your work process, you may need to report it to the HSE (as it could be an integral part of their inspection reports).

What is the law on risk assessments?

In the UK, it's a legal requirement for employers to conduct risk assessments when necessary. This applies to all workplaces - from offices to construction sites. When it's done properly, you're able to prioritise Health & Safety within your working practices.

There are many laws and regulations connected to risk management. For example:

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWA).
  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA).
  • The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 2022.
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).
  • The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
  • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996.

Without legal compliance, employees (and non-employees) might be harmed. These incidents could lead to employers facing claims of personal injury, gross negligence, and even corporate manslaughter.

Are there tools and techniques used for risk assessments?

Yes, there are all kinds of tools and techniques employers can use for a risk assessment. The most common tools used are risk matrix, decision tree, failure modes, and effects analysis (FMEA), and bowtie model. Let's look at risk matrix in more depth:

A risk matrix is used during a risk assessment when you need to measure the level of a risk. The overall risk of a hazard is judged based on two control measures: consequences and likelihood.

Risk matrix consequences

When assessing risk matrix consequences, employers need to ask 'how severe would an employee's injury be if they were exposed to a hazard?' The consequences are then categorised into four groups:

  • Fatality: This is when a hazard leads to death.
  • Major or serious injury: This is when a hazard causes serious damage to a person's health. They might require immediate medical attention or suffer from semi/permanent ill-health issues.
  • Minor injury: This is when a hazard causing damage that can be treated with rest, recovery, and ongoing treatment.
  • Negligible injuries: This is when a hazard is treated with first aid only. After this, they're likely to be well enough to continue working straightaway.

Risk matrix likelihood

When assessing risk matrix likelihood, employers need to ask 'what is the likelihood that an employee would face an injury if they were exposed to a hazard?' The likelihood is then categorised into four groups:

  • Very likely: This is when a person is exposed to hazards continuously.
  • Likely: This is when a person is exposed to hazards occasionally.
  • Unlikely: This is when a person could face hazards but only rarely.
  • Highly unlikely: This is when a person could face hazards, but the chances are next to nothing.

Get expert advice on risk assessments with Peninsula

From creating a risk assessment template to outlining safety compliance - every business will have its own requirements to control the risks of hazards identified.

That's where risk assessments come in. Remember, the assessment is a process that helps evaluate the risks to all people found on your business premises - not just workers.

Be aware of the costs of neglecting this legal obligation. Employers could end up causing personal injuries, facing business closure, and even facing imprisonment (if applicable).

Peninsula offers expert advice on risk assessments. Our teams provide 24/7 Health & Safety advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our Health & Safety experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with a Health & Safety consultant today.

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