See how we helped Michael

"Fantastic! The legal document I used was so comprehensive and easy to complete. It is very reassuring to know my business now has this level of protection"

Michael S, London

The 5-step approach to risk assessments

The 5-step approach to risk assessments

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 disabilities, temporary workers 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.

Consider whether:

  • 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

6. Involving and consulting workers

Step 4: Record your significant findings and implement a plan

If you have fewer than 5 employees, you don't need to write anything down, but it is useful to keep a written record of what you've done so you can review it at a later date if there is a change.

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

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 or their representatives in the process

Keep the written record for future reference.

The plan

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?

Copyright © 2024 Epoq Group Ltd. All trademarks acknowledged, all rights reserved

This website is operated by Epoq Legal Ltd, registered in England and Wales, company number 3707955, whose registered office is at 2 Imperial Place, Maxwell Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 1JN. Epoq Legal Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number 645296).

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We would also like to set some optional cookies. We won't set these optional cookies unless you enable them. Please choose whether this site may use optional cookies by selecting 'On' or 'Off' for each category below. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookie notice.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Functionality cookies

We'd like to set cookies to provide you with a better customer experience. For more information on these cookies, please see our cookie notice.