Risk assessment

As an employer, you should assess any activities in your workplace that could cause harm, and carry out a risk assessment to identify the hazards and control the risks. This will help you put controls in place that prevent accidents and injury in the workplace and, in turn, help you in managing sickness absence.

Am I legally obliged to carry out risk assessments?

You are required by law, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work (MHSW) Regulations 1999, to identify and manage risks within your workplace.

The regulations require you to carry out a ‘systematic examination’ of your work activities and, if you employ five or more staff, you are required to record the findings of your risk assessment.

If you employ ‘vulnerable groups’, such as young people under 18, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers or individuals with disabilities, you should consider the risks posed to them and put in place any additional controls that are required.

How to carry out a risk assessment

Every company and organisation is different and will take a slightly different approach to carrying out risk assessments. The most important thing is that they are carried out methodically and strategically, and that you consider all the risks within your workplace.

Although there are no set rules as to how you should carry out a risk assessment, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends an approach where you carry out the process in five steps:

  • Identify potential hazards associated with work activities.
  • Identify who could be at risk from those hazards.
  • Implement control measures – how you manage the risks at present and what further steps might be required to reduce the risks further.
  • Record the findings of your assessment – this is a legal requirement if you employ five or more staff.
  • Review the risk assessment on a regular basis.

It is important to involve employees in the risk assessment process to ensure the controls are effective and that safe methods of work are achievable.

Once the risk assessment has been carried out, you should make sure that everyone involved is made aware of the findings of the assessment.

For more information, see the information on controlling risks in the workplace on the HSE website. The HSE also offers example risk assessments.