Risk Assessment 101

risk management road sign

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding risk assessments. Don’t panic, we’re here to help! With the help of our expert assessors, we’ve created a Risk Assessment 101 to respond to your questions…

  1. Why do I need a risk assessment?

    According to Regulation 3 of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, all employers need to identify the risks faced by their employees and others who are involved with their activities, to control the level of risk so that everyone involved is protected and safe.

  2. What's a risk assessment?

    The HSE explains what a risk assessment is perfectly… ‘A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have covered all you need to'.*


  3. How do I carry out a risk assessment?

    First, we need to explain what harm, hazard and risk mean in the world of Health and Safety…

    Harm is defined as ‘any form of physical injury, illness or psychological damage’.
    A hazard is ‘anything that has the potential to cause harm’.
    Risk is ‘the likelihood of a particular hazard causing harm’ multiplied by ‘the potential severity of any harm’.

    To complete a risk assessment you need to look at the job and its environment, including;

    • Are there any potential hazards which may cause harm?
    • Who could be affected?
    • Assess the likelihood of those hazards and the seriousness of the harm they could cause
    • Explain what you will do to eliminate or reduce the risk and likelihood of the hazards. 
  4. What is meant by ‘control measures’ in risk assessments?

    Control measures are any practices, processes, equipment or personal protective equipment put in place to eliminate or reduce risk.

    Careful consideration of control measures need to be undertaken as some will present new or alternative hazards. For example, using a mobile tower scaffold to prevent falls on a large job may be preferable to using ladders. However, this means new hazards involving tower scaffolds need to be considered, such as incorrect erection, over-loading the scaffold, unsafe access to the working platform, etc. This requires its own control measures including training and the management of materials.

  5. Do I need to formally write down my risk assessments?

    If you employ five or more employees, legally you must record any significant findings of a risk assessment.

    If you have less than five employees you’re not obliged to write your risk assessment but don’t discount the idea, it’s best practice to do so! However, you must be able to confidently discuss the hazards involved in your work activity, and the control measures you have put in place with your client.

  6. Do I need to write my risk assessment in a special format?

    No, there isn’t a standard format for risk assessments. However, you do need to consider the full implications of risk which we have outlined in our answer to question 3.

  7. Do we need a site specific risk assessment for every job we do if it’s of a short term nature?

    It depends... A correct risk assessment will consider the hazards involved in the task undertaken and the environment where it takes place. If there’s a variation in either of these you may need some method of accounting for any job and site specific hazards. That’s not to say that a site specific risk assessment is required, as a generic risk assessment with a supplement for site specific hazards could be satisfactory.

  8. Do risk assessments need a scoring matrix?

    You don’t need to have a scoring matrix but some risk assessment formats use scoring systems to determine the level of risk to the potential harm, and the likelihood of its occurrence. Scoring matrixes tend to work well for complex activities, however it may not be necessary for your work activity.

    If you decide to use a scoring matrix, consider these points:

    • Do employees understand the scoring system?
    • Do the persons undertaking the risk assessments understand the scoring system?
    • Does the scoring system detract from the purpose of identifying hazards and managing risk?
  9. To become an accredited SafeContractor what do I need to provide in terms of risk assessments?

    You need to provide a sample of risk assessments covering the work activities you have selected to be part of your accreditation. The risk assessments must relate to jobs completed in the past 12 months which have been undertaken by your direct employees and/or any labour-only contractors where you control the work. A new sample of risk assessments are required every year upon the renewal of your accreditation application.

    Again, you don’t need to use a specific assessment format as long as the significant hazards involved in each job are identified, the persons affected recognised, the risk of harm assessed and suitable control measures are in place to reduce or eliminate these risks.

    SafeContractor expects members to demonstrate proportionate risk management by focusing on the risks that really matter.

  10. How can SafeContractor help me demonstrate this for accreditation?

    We provide an information note on risk assessments to assist SMEs who are creating suitable and sufficient risk assessments. The information note includes a template, however other formats of risk assessment are acceptable too.


We hope you found this advice helpful! If there's another topic relating to health & safety or accreditation causing you confusion, please share it with us on Twitter.


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Post date: 26 Jan 2016

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