What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your work, could harm people. It helps you decide whether you have done enough to prevent anyone coming to harm, or need to do more.

By law, the risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’. This means it must be good enough to protect people from any harm that you can predict. Your risk assessment does not need to be complicated or technical. Most employers carry out risk assessments during the normal course of their work.

For example, if you were to hire a new driver, you would identify how much information, instruction or training they will need do their work without making mistakes or causing accidents. By recognising that there are risks associated with having new drivers, and then deciding what precautions to take, you do a risk assessment and act on it.

Your risk assessment is thorough and accurate because you need to use it when you decide what to do to control risks. It will help you to decide what is ‘reasonably practicable’ because it will help you decide how serious risks are, and how much effort and cost is necessary to control them.

If your organisation employs five or more people (including managers), you must write down any significant findings from the risk assessment.

We recommend this five-step process to carry out a risk assessment:

  • Step 1 – Identify the hazards

  • Step 2 – Decide who might be harmed and how

  • Step 3 – Evaluate the risks

  • Step 4 – Record your findings

  • Step 5 – Review the risk assessment regularly

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