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How to carry out a risk assessment

How to carry out a general safety risk assessment for your premises

Carrying out a risk assessment is a vital task that can save lives.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum an employer must do is:

  • identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)

  • decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)

  • take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn't possible, control the risk

Here is our step by step guide with helpful links and resources.

Step 1: Identify the hazards.

If you’ve done your risk assessments by rote in the past, try to look at the process with fresh eyes.

First note the physical hazards and actually walk around the premises to do this. Note potential hazardous materials or tasks, trip hazards, slippery floors. Hazards due to storage of heavy items that need to be lifted, old flooring that needs to be replaced, poor signage etc.

Also look at hazards that can affect mental health and wellbeing. For example, loud, noisy environments may not be able to be helped, but are there quiet spaces or ear defenders available. Are lights buzzing, could small teams who are isolated or on late shifts be vulnerable to bullying, are certain teams suffering constantly from an excessive workload?

It’s not just that you stand to have good staff suffer as a result of these poorly managed risks, but you also have a legal obligation to keep staff safe and healthy.

And don’t just rely on your own viewpoint. If you have not done so recently, get input from staff on perceived risks and hazards, they will undoubtedly spot things that are not on your radar.

Step 2: Decide Who Might Be Harmed and How

Consider not just staff but the general public. Could they inadvertently access high risk areas where staff need PPE and training to remain safe? Do you need better signage and barriers or access control systems?

Also consider suppliers and third party visitors to your site as well as temporary workers who may be most at risk due to unfamiliarity with the premises.

And look at specific teams, or shifts. Do staff on one shift face risks that others doing the same job are less likely to be at risk of. The time and frequency of work can be important in determining the ‘who’ is most at risk as well as the tasks they are carrying out. Those working later or longer hours, for example, are more at risk from tiredness or risks where lack of alertness is a key factor.

Step 3: Weigh up the risks. Decide the best measures to eradicate risks and where it is not possible to eliminate them, to reduce them.

It’s impossible to eradicate all risk, but you can tke effective measures to eradicate some risks and control others.

Traditional wisdom is that risks that pose a bigger threat should receive more extensive control measures than low-risk hazards. To some extent this is true, but do consider that it might be very simple to eradicate some low level, yet surprisingly frequent risks altogether. For example, moving a storage site or changing your procedures to decanting small amounts of supplies rather than shifting larger amounts, might mean staff don’t need to life heavy loads at all.

Controlling other risks through signage, PPE and staff training can greatly reduce the risks in other areas.

Step 4: Record your findings and make sure key people know where to find this information.

Use a well structured template or document to record your risk assessment findings and make sure that key people know where this is stored and how regularly it must be updated.

For employers with five or more staff, it is a legal requirement to document the findings of risk assessments and the action taken to reduce the level of risk.

Your risk assessment is also vital should an incidnet occur as it reduced legal liability.

Most importantly, the risk assessments are documents that can be evolved and improved over time as each new risk assessment is updated, improving safety levels, learning from past mistakes and increasing safety for the future.

Step 5: Have a regular process for reviewing and updating the risk assessment that is always the responsibility of at least two named people.

Work environments are constantly changing so there should be a regular review date for your risk assessment, but also, it should be a process that you go through whenever there is a big change or event in the workplace.

If a big new contract is won, for example, and working processes are being changed to accommodate this, or if an area of the premises is being updated, a new risk assessment should be undertaken, wherever possible with good input from staff.

Helpful resources:

The HSE has a free download on a Toolbox to manage risk. This includes advice on a range of areas from electrical items, to fire safety and noise risk.

Safety posters for the workplace

You can see a range of helpful health and safety posters for the workplace to help reduce risks and inform staff of regulations and key safety measures from page 84 of our Safety Signage and Workplace Safey Brochure

Our team have great experience in helping businesses manage risk and improve safety. We’re happy to offer advice and useful solutions. Contact us at or call us on 01726 74264


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