If you’re a business owner, figuring out risk assessments can be confusing. What is a risk assessment? Do you need a risk assessment? Who writes the risk assessment? These are all common questions we get asked by business owners. We’ve created this ultimate guide to help support you, so you can tackle your risk assessments with more confidence. 

What is a risk assessment?

Every business has a responsibility to make sure its workplace is safe for employees, contractors, and members of the public.

Risk assessments are a way to highlight potential risks in an environment so you can put procedures in place to reduce them. They’re used to identify, monitor, and review the dangers in the workplace and are an important consideration for businesses in any industry.

Once you’ve planned a risk assessment and carried it out, you should document any changes required to prevent these potential hazards from causing harm and of course take the necessary remedial action. As well as a crucial practice for safeguarding, Risk Assessments also function as an opportunity to add further safety measures based on findings and outcomes.

Do I need to conduct a risk assessment?

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to create, maintain and store your business’ risk assessments. The general requirements for a business under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations outline that employers must:

  • assess risks to self, employees and any other person who has contact with a workplace or processes
  • review assessments over time and make any changes needed
  • in the case of an organisation with five or more employees, keep a record of risk assessment findings and identify people who are considered to be at risk

There are also additional laws, depending on the nature of the work your business does. These include:

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations
  • Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations
  • The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations

Who is responsible for completing a risk assessment?

It’s an employer’s responsibility to carry out the risk assessment for a business. However, lots of employers may hire or appoint someone with the relevant knowledge to carry it out. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 says that an employer must take reasonable steps ‘for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.

This means that if you are an employer who chooses to appoint someone to carry out the risk assessment, the responsibility still falls on you, and other managers, to make sure your risk assessments are completed properly.

Once risk assessments have been completed, the findings and procedures then need to be clearly communicated to all relevant people across the business. Communicating your risk assessments often runs more smoothly if those to who the risks are relevant are involved in the process of highlighting the risks.

It’s often the case that the person carrying out an activity is the best person to highlight the risks involved.

When should a risk assessment be carried out?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) encourages businesses to regularly review their risk assessments and reassess potential risks in the workplace to make sure that no further risks have cropped up, and no new control measures are needed. The HSE recommends that businesses carry out a risk assessment at least once a year.

However, they also say that you should do a risk assessment every time you bring in new procedures, equipment, or substances into the workplace as they may create new hazards. It could also be worth carrying out a risk assessment if there’s high staff turnover to check that all existing employees are aware of the Health & Safety measures you have in place, and if there have been any concerning changes such as a rise in absences relating to a problem in the workplace.

How often should I review my risk assessments?

Your business’s risk assessment is only effective for as long as it reflects the environment it was created for. If you have had major business changes, you should consider reviewing your risk assessment. These changes could include:

  • A change in the number of staff
  • Changes in the equipment or procedures
  • If you have had accidents or near misses
  • Changes to your workforce (high staff turnover)

What is the process for writing a risk assessment?

  • Identify risks – go around your site and try to identify any hazards. You can also ask others in your line of work about areas you should consider.
  • Identify who is at risk – who do the risks apply to? Workers, the public, visitors etc?
  • Take action to reduce risks – start to plan how you can reduce risks. For example, do you need to provide workers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect them from potential hazards?
  • Record your findings – make sure to keep a note of the risks you find and the control measures you’ve put in place to keep the workplace, and everyone in it, safe.
  • Review the risk assessment – over time you may have changes to your business or introduce new equipment or substances to your working practices. Therefore, you should review your risk assessments to make sure your control measures still reflect how you work.

What are the different types of risk assessment?

Risk assessments can be formatted in several different ways to best outline the dangers your business faces. Risk assessments are normally structured as:

  • Qualitative risk assessments – these are the most common type of risk assessments, where an assessor will walk around a site and highlight any dangers.
  • Quantitative risk assessments – using quantitative rules to highlight levels of risk, a matrix may be used to assign likelihood and severity.
  • Generic risk assessments – often follow a template and are structured around risks involved in a specific task or job.
  • Site-specific risk assessment – these are used for specific locations or tasks.
  • Dynamic risk assessment – these are carried out following a sudden change or unforeseen circumstances.

Should I use a dynamic risk assessment?

Dynamic risk assessments are often used for jobs that are ever-changing. Dynamic risk assessments allow you to make changes and account for risk in a live environment that a standard risk assessment wouldn’t be able to cover. Standard risk assessments will always have a place and are required by law, but if your job involves changes in location or even the type of work being carried out, then you should consider a dynamic risk assessment.

An example of where a dynamic risk assessment might be used could include entering a new house. A dynamic risk assessment could be conducted to assess whether the property is safe to enter, whether the people in the property are showing threatening behaviour and whether there are relevant safeguards in place should there be an incident.

Risk assessment templates

HS Direct risk assessment template

Risk assessment templates are commonly used to help businesses structure their risk assessment properly. Templates are designed in a way that makes it easy for you to manage, with boxes labelling the activity, potential risk, severity and controlling measures. Using a template saves you time and also gives you confidence that your risk assessment is up to scratch to keep your workplace safe and meet the legal requirements.

Here at HS Direct, we have a whole library of risk assessment templates that you can download and complete to suit your business. They’re the ideal way to keep your business compliant and safe, so you can focus on getting the job done. Just click here to get your free risk assessment template today!

Get your free risk assessment template!