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Health and Safety

Risk Assessment

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require employers and the self-employed to assess the risks arising from their work activities and record the significant findings. Identify the measures needed to eliminate or control the risks and then implement them. You will also need to periodically check that the control measures in place are effective.

The benefits of carrying out risk assessments include:-

  • You are complying with the law
  • It will identify where accidents may occur and prevent them actually happening
  • There will be a reduction in the financial costs of accidents i.e. compensation claims, loss of production, damage to equipment, prosecution costs.

Carrying out a risk assessment may initially seem very complicated, even daunting. In fact, Risk Assessment is a straightforward concept. Without realising it, you carry out Risk Assessments on a day to day basis, for example, every time we cross a road we assess:

  • The speed of the traffic going in both directions
  • The distance between each oncoming vehicle
  • The width of the road we are trying to cross
  • Our physical ability to cross the road safely in the given time

We may decide that the risk is too great and then decide to control it, e.g. by finding a zebra or pelican crossing.

Before starting your risk assessment the terms "Hazard" and "Risk" need to be understood.

"Hazard" means anything that can cause harm, e.g. poorly maintained floors, fire or electricity.

"Risk" means the chance, great or small, that someone will be harmed by the hazard.

A proper Risk Assessment cannot be carried out sitting behind a desk! So get up from behind that desk and take a walk around your workplace.

Don't forget to speak to your employees, they are usually best placed to pinpoint hazards that you may never have considered yourself.

Follow the '5' steps to Risk Assessment

Remember: If you are a small business and you are confident you understand what's involved, you can do the assessment yourself. If you are a larger business ask for help from your Safety Officer, Safety Representative or responsible employee. If you don't feel confident, get help from a competent source. You could start by asking an Environmental Health Officer from the Health and Safety Unit.

Step 1 1. Look for hazards, i.e. what can cause harm. Walk around your workplace and talk to your employees (be realistic and only include those hazards which would result in injury). Don't forget to check the accident and ill-health records.
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Step 2 2. Decide who might be harmed and how. Consider your employees, visitors and members of the public or people you share your workplace with, if there is a chance they could be hurt by your activities. Don't forget to include young workers, trainees, new and expectant mothers, etc., who may be at particular risk.
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Step 3 3. Evaluate whether the risk associated with each hazard is significant and decide what precautions can be taken to eliminate or reduce the risk. Your real aim is to make all risks small by adding to your precautions as necessary. Don't forget to ask yourself "Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?" If not, "how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?"
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Step 4 4. Record your findings (you must do this if you employ five or more people) and show the assessment to your employees. Don't forget to keep a written record, it can help you when an inspector asks what precautions you have taken, or if you become involved in any action for civil liability.
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Step 5 5. Review your assessment from time to time and update it when necessary. Make sure that your employees are informed of any changes. Don't forget that new machines, substances and procedures could lead to new hazards and you will have to take account of these changes.

Example: Using a 6-rung 'A' frame Stepladder to change light bulbs


Employee falling from the stepladder


High Risk - could cause a major injury or fatality

Who might be harmed?

Employee, Visitors


  1. Ensure employees know how to use the stepladder properly.
  2. Ensure that the stepladder is checked for defects regularly.

    Handy Hint - Draw up a checklist so that all parts are checked. (see Appendix 5) (58KB) Adobe Acrobat Format

  3. Ensure that until the defects are repaired the stepladder is taken out of use.


  1. Carry out spot checks to ensure that the staff are using the equipment properly, check the present condition of the stepladder against the most recent check sheet.


Risk Assessments need to be suitable and sufficient. Ask yourself the following questions:-

  1. Have I carried out a proper check?
  2. Have I asked who might be harmed? Don't forget to include young people, new or expectant mothers, lone workers, contractors who are on site for a short time, etc.
  3. Have I dealt with all the obvious significant hazards taking into account the number of people who could be involved?
  4. Are the precautions reasonable and the remaining risk low?

To help you carry out your own Risk Assessment, please see this example (48KB) Adobe Acrobat Format A blank Risk Assessment template can be found in Appendix 6 (44KB) Adobe Acrobat Format

If you need more help, contact the Health and Safety Unit on 0161 342 3469/3473.

The ultimate aim of carrying out a Risk Assessment include:

  • ensuring no-one gets hurt or becomes ill because of your work activities
  • to prevent financial losses due to criminal fines, civil claims, production loss and damage to machinery.
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