Business Guide – Carrying out a Health and Safety Risk Assessment

Business Guide – Carrying out a Health and Safety Risk Assessment

All business within the UK are required by the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to assess the risks to anyone who may be affected by their work activities. Despite the fact that each and every business will face different levels of risk, the assessment will need to cover all work activities, including display screen equipment, personal protection equipment, hazardous substances, and manual handling.

What legislation controls risk assessment?

The overriding piece of legislation covering risk assessment is the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. These regulations cover all work activities and their associated hazards. There are more specific risk assessment provisions contained in other regulations. The Health & Safety Executive has produced guidance notes, describing the similarities and differences between the provisions of the various regulations.

Related legislation which is likely to affect businesses which have common risks include:

  • Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
  • Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
  • Personal Protective Equipment at Risk Regulations 1992

Who should carry out the risk assessment?

Any person within the business organisation can be appointed to carry out the risk assessment, provided they have the necessary experience or knowledge. However in certain business types where health and safety is a key issue due to lots of machinery being used for example, it may be particularly useful to appoint a heath & safety consultant to perform the assessment independently.

What should be included in the assessment?

When taking a close look at your work environment and trying to identify hazards, walk around the workplace and look at significant dangers that might cause people harm under normal working conditions. Consult with employees to get their hands-on knowledge and experience. Some key areas that all businesses should look at for hazards are:

  • Slipping or tripping hazards
  • Fire hazards, such as flammable materials
  • Chemicals and hazardous substances
  • Moving parts of machinery
  • Working at heights
  • Ejection of materials (from plastic moulding for example)
  • Pressure systems, such as steam boilers
  • Vehicles
  • Electricity related hazards
  • Dust and fumes
  • Noise
  • Poor lighting
  • Low temperature
  • Ergonomics (positioning of monitors and keyboards)

Who is at risk in the workplace?

When carrying out a risk assessment you must consider who might be harmed. When deciding which groups of people are at risk pay particular attention to vulnerable groups of people including staff with disabilities, expectant mothers, younger employees, and inexperienced staff. Other people you should consider include:

  • Subcontractors who are occasional visitors
  • Maintenance staff, cleaners, and contractors
  • Members of the public who may visit your premises, site, or workplace and those people who may share part of the same area you are working in

Always remember that risk does not just mean physical dangers. Working practices are increasingly responsible for causing workplace stress and the Health & Safety Executive has laid down some standards around this issue.

Employers must also carry out a risk assessment of the work activities done by any home workers they employ. Some common hazards that home workers face are:

  • Using electrical equipment
  • Working extensively with VDUs and not taking appropriate breaks
  • Working alone without supervision
  • Risks to children from work equipment
  • Security threats – as a result of having expensive equipment stored in their property or giving out home contact details as part of their job

How do you evaluate risk?

Consider each element individually in a separate context, as some risks may be higher than others. Generally you should take the following precautions to minimise the risk of a particular hazard and ensure that good practice is established:

  • Ensure that any potential hazards comply with the relevant legislation and meet the authoritative standards of good practice set out in Health & Safety guidance
  • If possible remove the risk completely. However this may not be possible and so it may prove more practical and cost effective to reduce the risk to a minimal state. Organise work routines to reduce exposure to the hazard. Prevent access to any risk areas where necessary
  • Provide adequate information, instructions, or training to all staff involved in procedures that may expose them to risks of any kind. Perform annual updates to keep staff up to date of any changes in procedures or regulations
  • Personal protective equipment should be the chosen method of reducing exposure to hazards only when all other precautions have been taken
  • Supply welfare provisions, such as first aid and washing facilities

Do you need to keep a record of risk assessments?

It is a requirement of the Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 that any organisations with five or more employees to record any significant findings of the risk assessment. The assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’ to comply with the provisions in all the regulations. The following points should be included:

  • Significant hazards in the workplace and existing controls
  • Risks which are not adequately controlled and the action taken to resolve this
  • Employees and members of the public who may have been affected and groups of people who are in high risk categories
  • Any important conclusions reached
  • Further information on the hazards and any precautions taken – this can mean the manufacturer’s instructions or the company’s rules, safety procedures, health and safety policy statements, and general fire safety arrangements

One of the best ways of keeping written records is to fill in a risk assessment form. This should cover the following elements:

  • The location where the risk assessment is being carried out
  • The name of the person carrying out the assessment and the date it took place
  • The specific task or activity on which the assessment is being made
  • A brief description of the hazards identified and a priority rating (low, medium, or high)
  • A brief description of the control measures currently in place and whether they are satisfactory
  • Recommendations of further control measures to be carried out for each significant hazard and the target date
  • The date a copy of the risk assessment was passed to the business owner
  • The date of the next review

It is important that written records are retained for future reference, as a reminder of situations that should be reviewed regularly. They are also essential for showing an inspector what precautions have been taken in case your business becomes involved in a liability case.

How often do you need to review the risk assessment?

It is good practice to review your risk assessment on an annual basis even when the same machinery, equipment, and staff are in place. However over time your business may add new machinery, chemicals, or workplace procedures that could lead to significant new hazards on the premises. These should be added to your existing risk assessment.


Health and Safety Executive

Five steps to risk assessment, (INDG 163) HSE Books

Good practice and pitfalls in risk assessment, HSE Books