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5 steps to risk assessment

What are the 5 steps to risk assessment

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risk and decide on precautions
  4. Record your significant findings
  5. Review your risk assessment

So, you've been asked to provide a risk assessment, but you're not 100% certain on what it is, or what to include. Hopefully, you'll have more of an idea by the end of this post.

A risk assessment is an examination of a task, job or process that you carry out at work. It makes you think about what can cause harm (identify a hazard) and decide on reasonable steps to prevent that harm. It can help you decide if you've covered everything you need to.

Some regulations require certain control measures; your risk assessment can help you to look at certain risks and control measures in more detail. You don't need to assess these separately, but consider them as a part or extension of your risk assessment. If you have fewer than 5 employees, you don't have to write anything down, but it's good practice to, as it can be reviewed if anything changes and would help if the HSE were to get involved.


  • A hazard is anything that can cause harm, e.g. chemicals, electricity, working from ladders etc
  • The risk is the chance (be it high or low) that someone could be harmed by a hazard, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.

How to Assess?

Now you know the basics of what a risk assessment actually is, we're sure you'll be after to some tips on how to write one and what to include; so, we've put together five steps of a risk assessment to help you along the way.

1. Identify the Hazards

You have a duty to assess the health and safety risks that you/your workers face. You must check for any potential biological, chemical, mental and physical hazards. So, have a look around your workplace and see what activities, processes or substances used could injure you/your employees or harm their health.

If you work in the same place every day, it can be easy to miss some hazards, so the HSE recommend looking at:

  • Manufacturers' instructions/data sheets
  • Your accident and ill-health records
  • Non-routine operations
  • Long-term hazards to health.

2. Decide who Might be Harmed & How

Have a think about how employees, contractors, visitors, the public etc could be harmed by your activities.

For each hazard, think about who might be harmed, as this will help you to decide the best way of controlling a risk. This doesn't mean identifying people individually, but in groups, e.g. 'passers-by', 'people working in yard' etc.

You should also take into account if you share a workplace - discuss with whom you're sharing with and ensure controls are in place.

Don't forget to ask your workers; they might notice things you don't or identify a group you might've missed.


Some workers may have particular requirements, e.g.:

  • New/young workers
  • Migrant workers
  • New/expectant mothers
  • People with disabilities
  • Temp workers
  • Contractors
  • Homeworkers
  • Loneworkers

3. Evaluate the Risk & Decide on Precautions

Consider the probability of each hazard causing harm; determine if you should reduce the level of risk. Don't forget - some risk usually remains, even after precautions have been taken.

For each remaining hazard, you need to decide if the risk is high, medium or low.

Risk is part of life and you're not expected to eliminate all risks or anticipate unforeseeable risks - your risk assessment should only include what you're realistically expected to know. In general, you need to do everything, as far as is reasonably practicable, to protect people from harm.

4. Record Your Significant Findings

As we've already said, if you employ under 5 staff you're not required to record your risk assessment in writing; however, if you employ 5 or more staff you are required to have it in writing.

Your record should include your significant findings: hazards, how might people be harmed by the hazards and what's in place to control the risks.

The risk assessment you produce should show that:

  • A proper check was made
  • You asked who might be affected
  • You dealt with the obvious significant hazards
  • Precautions are reasonable and the risk that remains is low
  • You involved your staff/their representatives in the process

When putting together your risk assessments, if you identify a number of hazards, put them into order of importance and address the most serious risk first. Remember: the greater the hazard, the more vigorous and dependable your controls of the risk need to be.

5. Review

There are very few workplaces that stay the same; new equipment, substances and procedures will be introduced, eventually. These introductions could bring new hazards with them. So, it makes sense to review your risk assessment.

When reviewing your risk assessments, you should consider:

  • Any significant changes
  • Any improvements that still need to be made
  • Have your workers spotted anything?
  • Have you learnt from any near misses/accidents?

Always make sure that your risk assessments stay up to date.

If you're struggling with putting together your risk assessment, we have a range available on our website, or get in touch and we'd be happy to offer some advice.

HS Direct

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