Risk Assessments

First published on Thursday, Feb 10, 2022

Last updated on Friday, Jun 07, 2024

At work, it’s important to spot health & safety concerns where possible.

You are legally required to assess the risks in the workplace so you can keep everyone on the premises safe.

If accidents or hazards are mishandled, you could face hefty compensation fees or worse, be sent to prison.

In this guide, discover what a risk assessment is, if they are required by law, and what process you should follow to keep your business safe.

What is a Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment is a process to evaluate the risks in a workplace.

The purpose of a risk assessment is to identify potential hazards and examine aspects of work. The reports consider:

  • What could cause harm.
  • If hazards could be removed.
  • What measures are needed to control risks.

The benefits of risk assessments allow you to prevent accidents, protect employees, and provide a safe working environment.

Difference Between Hazards and Risks

A hazard is any source that has the potential to harm someone or something.

A risk is a chance that somebody may be harmed by a hazard, whether the probability is high or low.

By knowing the difference, you decide how to approach them when conducting an assessment.

Are Risk Assessments Required by Law?

By law, every employer must conduct risk assessments.

If you employ more than five people, then the results should be documented with details of the groups of employees at risk. For example, older, younger, pregnant, or disabled employees.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that you must control the risks in the workplace and remove any potential harm.

Employers are responsible for ensuring the health & safety of all persons found on the premises.

Types of Risk Assessment

There are five types of risk assessments that can be used by the health & safety officials at work. As an employer, you must pick the assessments that are relevant for your business.

Qualitative Risk Assessment

This is the most common risk assessment. When using this type of risk assessment at work, the evaluator will identify hazards, assess risks, and place control measures.
To judge the severity of the risk, they’ll categorise risks as high, medium, or low.

Quantitative Risk Assessment

This type of risk assessment uses quantitative techniques to measure the level of risks at work.

You can use a risk matrix so that a value can be given to the severity of risks. For example, you can use a 3x3 matrix with the following values:


  • Highly unlikely: 1
  • Likely: 2
  • Highly likely: 3


  • Slight: 1
  • Serious: 2
  • Major: 3

Use the following equation to calculate the level of risk:

Risk = Severity x Likelihood

For example, if the answer is 9, the risk is highly likely and could majorly impact your business.

Generic Risk Assessment

These assess hazards and risks raised during work activities.

These are often used to assess similar activities conducted by companies. However, it’s important to note every workplace and activity will be different. And it’s these differences that may affect the accuracy of the assessment.

You should review and adjust your risk assessments to keep them relevant to your workplace.

Site-specific Risk Assessment

These are the most important type of assessments. They’re carried out at a specific location where the activity takes place.

This type should be carried out after generic risk assessments to gain more awareness of hazards at work.

Dynamic Risk Assessment

This type of assessment is sudden and carried out on the spot. These should be considered to assess whether your employees can continue to work.

Written risk assessments may not be required if the H&S changes are sudden.

What is the Risk Assessment Process?

All the evaluations mentioned above must follow a five-step risk assessment process.

To ensure the safety of your employees, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has outlined five steps for risk assessments:

  1. Identify Hazards There are several types of hazards you should identify in the workplace. They can be categorised as:
  • Physical hazards: Like slips, trips, and falls.
  • Biological hazards: Like asbestos and infectious diseases.
  • Psychosocial hazards: Like mental health and wellbeing.

You may be able to spot some physical hazards by walking around the workplace. But it’s so important to identify all three forms during work.

  1. Consider Who May Be Harmed Once you’ve identified the possible hazards, consider who could be harmed. This could be a particular group of employees, visitors or even people passing by.

By considering who could be harmed, you will be able to stay organised and keep your employees safe.

These could be vulnerable workers that are either elderly, disabled, young, or pregnant.

  1. Evaluate Risks and Action Measures At this stage, you need to take action to create a safe workplace.

You need to evaluate the likelihood and severity of the risks. Once you have done this, you can control measures.

You are not expected to remove the risk, just take action to reduce it. Risks that pose a bigger threat should be controlled more than low-risk hazards.

To reduce the risk, you should:

  • Reshape work practices.
  • Offer proper equipment.
  • Control exposure to dangerous machinery.
  • Reinforce wearing proper safety gear and uniform.
  • Restrict access to hazardous work areas.
  1. Review Results If your business has five or more employees, it’s a legal requirement to document your findings from the risk assessment.

Alongside documenting, you need to show you’ve taken action to reduce the level of risk.

You should provide a written risk assessment that proves the hazards were reviewed. This proof can protect you from legal liability in the future.

  1. Assess the Risk Assessment As the workplace changes, risk assessments may become less relevant.

But to make sure risk assessments stay updated, you should review them every time there are changes at work.

Get Help on Risk Assessments with BrightHR

Reducing risks and hazards should be handled with care in the workplace.

This means risk assessments should be carried out on a regular basis to ensure the safety of your employees.

If an employee is harmed because of your lack of care, you could receive a hefty fine or be sent to prison.

BrightHR can help you manage risk assessments with our BrightSafe helpline. Don’t hesitate to call us if you need any help with improving your health & safety at work.

Book a free demo today or give us a call on 08007832806

Thea Watson

Chief International Growth and Marketing Officer

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