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What is risk assessment?

What is risk assessment?

What is risk assessment? 

“A risk assessment is a systematic review of what might cause undesirable incidents and what consequences these may have for the working environment. A risk assessment must also identify measures that form a basis for reducing risk.” As defined by the HSE. 

Employers are required by law to protect employees and others from harm. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to: 

  • Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards) 
  • Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk) 
  • Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk 


Assessing risk is just one part of the overall process used to control risks in your workplace.  Here are 5 steps to carrying out a risk assessment: 

  1. Identify hazards 

Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards). Think about: 

  • How people work and how plant and equipment are used 
  • What chemicals and substances are used 
  • What safe or unsafe work practices/procedures exist 
  • The general state of the premises 


Think about hazards to health, such as manual handling, use of chemicals and causes of work-related stress. 

For each hazard, think about how employees, contractors, visitors or members of the public might be harmed. 

  1. Decide who might be harmed and how 

Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious it could be. This is assessing the level of risk.   


  • Who might be harmed and how 
  • What you’re already doing to control the risks 
  • What further action you need to take to control the risks 
  • Who needs to carry out the action 
  • When the action is needed by 


Vulnerable workers – Some workers have particular requirements, for example young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities. 


  1. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions 

Look at what you’re already doing, and the controls you already have in place: 

  • Can you eliminate the hazard altogether? 
  • If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?


If you need further controls, consider: 

  • Redesigning the job 
  • Replacing the materials, machinery or process 
  • Organising your work to reduce exposure to the materials, machinery or process 
  • Identifying and implementing practical measures needed to work safely 
  • Providing personal protective equipment and making sure workers wear it 


Employers are not expected to eliminate all risks but they need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. 

  1. Record your findings and implement them 

If employers employ 5 or more people, they must record significant findings, including. 

  • the hazards (things that may cause harm) 
  • who might be harmed and how 
  • what you are doing to control the risks 


  1. Reviewing risk assessments 

You must review the controls you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if: 

they may no longer be effective 

there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks such as changes to: 

  • staff 
  • a process 
  • the substances or equipment used 
  • Changes in legislation  

Also consider a review if your workers have spotted any problems or there have been any accidents or near misses. 

Update your risk assessment record with any changes you make and circulate to employees. 


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