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Five Steps of a Risk Assessment

There are five steps of a risk assessment to include when putting together such a document. It’s important that as a business owner you cover all stages in a risk assessment to ensure you meet your legal and moral responsibilities. The five steps to a risk assessment are:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Consider who could be harmed
  3. Evaluate risks and set-up precautions
  4. Record your findings and implement them
  5. Review and update

Risk assessments are an essential part of your health and safety protocol. You’re legally obligated to put specific measures and procedures in place to protect your employees, customers, and the general public from harm. Putting together a risk assessment helps satisfy these requirements. If you’ve never created one before, you might need a bit of help and guidance along the way.

Enjoy a free 15-day trial of our risk assessment software to use templates and for help completing professional risk assessments. Alternatively, use the following information about the five steps in a risk assessment process (as laid out by the HSE (Health & Safety Executive)) to build your own from scratch.

What is the first step of a risk assessment?

Step One: Identify the hazards

The first step of a risk assessment is identifying hazards and the risks they pose. By definition, a hazard is a danger or something that can cause harm. A risk determines the likelihood of the hazard actually causing a person harm or injury – and this is what you factor into the first step in a risk assessment.

Common workplace hazards include:

The above list is by no means exhaustive. You’ll have to take other factors into account when writing the first step in a risk assessment. The easiest way to do this is simply to walk around your business and note any obvious potential risks and hazards you see.

After completing your initial observations, ask others if they think you’ve missed anything. As risk assessments are varied, you must consider every tiny detail – even if something seems too obvious to write down. You may also wish to read risk assessments published by companies within a similar industry, as they’ll likely have many similarities.

Although some potential hazards will jump right out to you upon observation, you also need to consider long term risks. For example, what are the potential hazards associated with prolonged exposure to a particular chemical? Or, if your workplace is particularly noisy, what implications can this have on your employees’ hearing in ten or fifteen years? Remember, the more complete your assessment is, the stronger it will be and the better protected your employees and customers.

Second step of a risk assessment

Step Two: Consider who could be harmed

After identifying workplace hazards you need to determine who is at risk. At first, this may seem straightforward. For example, when mentioning risks associated with machinery, it seems obvious that the employee handling the equipment is the person at risk.

However, you also need to consider others who may work in the vicinity of the room, cleaners who may oversee maintaining the equipment’s upkeep, and whether the general public will be nearby when the equipment is in use.

Some employees may be more vulnerable than others or may have to be factored into your risk assessment differently. This could include:

Step Three: Evaluate risks and set-up precautions

Once you have identified a risk, you need to set up a plan to eliminate the risk or put suitable precautions in place to minimise it.

The first question you should ask is whether you can eliminate the hazard. For example, if your employees often carry heavy equipment, they’re at risk of injuring their back, neck, or shoulders. Eliminate the risk of injury by sourcing equipment that makes heavy lifting easier or does the work for them.

Although eliminating all risks is impossible, you can find ways to minimise their impact. This can be achieved in many ways:

It’s important to remember that you cannot remove risks entirely. There’s always an element of chance involved when something could go wrong. However, the above steps make the chances of this much smaller. This is known as ‘residual risk’ – the risk that exists under some element of control.

Step Four: Record your findings and implement them

Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s time to finally start writing your risk report. Although this may seem daunting, you’ve already done most of the hard work. To begin with, start with a rough draft where you note down all the risks and the steps you’ve taken to minimise them. For example:

Once you’ve completed your risk assessment, you need to notify your staff and employees to ensure they understand any changes you made. You may also wish to sign accountability to individual members of the team. For example, you should assign a particular person to check specific equipment each day.

Step Five: Review and update

The final step in a risk assessment is to review your documents and how effective they are. Your job isn’t necessarily complete once you’ve done the initial risk assessment. You’ll need to regularly review and update this plan to ensure it continues to meet your employees’ needs.

If you buy new equipment, it must be assessed and added to the plan. You may also need to complete a new assessment whenever you hire a new employee.

What does suitable and sufficient mean?

For your risk assessment to meet government requirements, you need to ensure that it is ‘suitable and sufficient.’ This means that you can prove that you have followed the above steps and ascertained that you have:

There are plenty of risk assessment templates available online that provide you with advice on structure and phrasing. You can use and edit these to make them unique to you and your business, as every business is different.

If the process of including all the steps in a risk assessment process is daunting, we’re here to help. Our  health and safety risk assessment software can reduce your time from completing a risk assessment by 80% by using our online step-by-step creator. We’re also on hand to help explain the steps for carrying out a risk assessment, should you require further clarification.

Start your free 15-day trial of our risk assessment software online today and see how it helps you save time, effort, and money.