Step 1: Identify the hazards
A hazard is anything that can cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, gas and working from heights.
- Walk around the workplace to see what could cause harm - concentrate especially on significant hazards that could result in serious harm or affect several people. Consider taking another person with you to ensure you identify all hazards.
- Ask your employees or their representatives for their views as they might notice things that you might not.
- Check any available product information, such as manufacturers' instructions or data sheets that can help you find hazards.
- Check your accident and sickness absence records.
- Consider hazards that could cause long-term effects, such as high noise levels.
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Identify groups of people (not just the individual) that might be harmed, such as:
- Young employees, trainees, migrant employees, new and expectant mothers, people with difficulties and anyone else who may be at particular risk
- Those who aren't in the workplace all the time, such as visitors, cleaners, shift workers, contractors, maintenance workers
- Members of the public or other people you share your workplace with
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
The risk is the chance that somebody could be harmed by a hazard. You need to identify whether the risk could cause serious harm to the individual.
- Consider how likely it is that each hazard could cause harm — this will help you decide whether you need to do more to reduce the risk. Even after you've applied all measures, some risk usually remains.
- Classify the remaining risk as high, medium or low.
Decide the precautions
Your aim is to either get rid of the hazard altogether or control it to a reasonably feasible minimum level.
- Any existing controls or practices meet legal requirements (such as preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery) and comply with generally accepted industry standards
- There are any other safety measures that are reasonably feasible to implement to keep the workplace safe
- You need to produce a plan, giving priority to any remaining risks that are high and those that could affect most people
When controlling risks, apply the following (if possible):
1. Try a less risky option, such as using a less hazardous chemical
2. Prevent employees from going near the hazard, e.g. by using guarding
3. Organise work to reduce exposing the employee to the hazard
4. Give out Personal Protective Equipment, where necessary
5. Provide welfare facilities, such as washing facilities to remove contamination, and a first aid kit
Step 4: Record your findings and implement a plan
If you have fewer than 5 employees, you don't need to record anything, but it is useful to keep a written record of what you've done.
If you employ 5 or more people, you must keep a written record of the significant hazards and the conclusions that you found in your risk assessment. You must also tell your staff about your findings.
Your records need to show that:
- You made proper checks
- You considered who might be affected
- You dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved
- The precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low
- You involved your staff in the process
Keep the written record for future reference.
You should create a plan for:
1. A few cheap or easy improvements that can be done quickly, perhaps as a temporary solution until more reliable controls are in place
2. Long-term solutions to those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health
3. Long-term solutions to those risks with the worst potential consequences
4. Arrangements for training employees on the main risks that remain and how they are to be controlled
5. Regular checks to make sure the control measures stay in place
6. Clear responsibilities — who will lead on what action and by when
Step 5: Review your assessment and revise it if necessary
You must review your risk assessment regularly particularly if there has been a new event, such as new equipment or substances being introduced into the business. Make sure it's kept up-to-date.
To decide whether your assessment needs changing, you should ask the following questions:
- Have there been any changes in the workplace?
- Are there improvements you still need to make?
- Have your employees spotted a problem?
- Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses?