How to do a risk assessment

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets out a step-by-step approach to risk assessment in its guidance Five steps to risk assessment, as follows.

Step 1: Look for and identify hazards by visually inspecting the workplace, consulting employees and their representatives, looking at manufacturers' instructions or data sheets, and considering records relating to accidents, near misses and ill health.

Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how - consider everyone at the workplace, not just employees.

Step 3: Evaluate the risks arising from hazards, and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate, or if more should be done. If something needs to be done, take steps to eliminate or control the risks.

Step 4: Record the findings and state how they can be controlled to prevent harm. Most importantly, employees must be informed about the outcome of the risk assessment, as they will be the ones who will need to take action. (Site-specific forms can be produced. However, in order not to make risk assessments too complicated, the HSE suggests using the headings in the 'five steps' process.)

Step 5: Review the assessment from time to time and revise it if necessary, eg if work activities or processes change.

How to make sure risk assessments are 'suitable and sufficient'

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require that all risk assessments are 'suitable and sufficient'. This means they should:

  • correctly identify a hazard

  • disregard inconsequential risks and those trivial risks associated with life in general

  • determine the likelihood of injury or harm arising

  • identify those who may be at particular risk, such as pregnant or disabled employees

  • take into account any existing control measures

  • identify any specific legal duty or requirement relating to the hazard

  • provide sufficient information to enable the employer to decide upon appropriate control measures, taking into account the latest scientific developments and advances

  • enable the employer to prioritise remedial measures

  • remain valid for a reasonable period of time.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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