Risk assessment management process

How to write your risk assessment

A risk assessment is a useful tool to help employers meet their responsibility of making sure that their staff, the public and anyone else coming into contact with their site or workplace is safe and secure. Risk assessments allow employers to highlight the dangers that people may face and puts in place measures to reduce or in some cases completely remove the risks.

Risk assessments help employers to take control of risks. There is a lot of pressure and responsibility on employers to make sure all those who enter the environment they’re responsible for is safe and risk assessments are the foundation of spotting and reducing any risk.

It is also a legal requirement for any business that employs more than 5 people to hold a valid risks assessment. It is important that risk assessments are carried out and recorded thoroughly as they form the basis for health and safety policies and procedures.

What are risk assessment templates?

Risk assessment templates are an effective risk management tool. They normally come in the form of a document that breaks the full assessment down into different stages with space for you to record hazards and the people who are at risk.

Templates will also include a risk matrix – these are simply so you can record the level of risk and the likelihood of the risk happening. Once you have identified and evaluated the risks the template will direct you to record the existing control measures and any other measures that could be put in place to reduce the risks.

Do you need to use a template?

No, there is no requirement for an organisation to use a risk assessment template, they are simply there to help guide those who are unsure through the initial processes. You can create your own structure for carrying out and recording assessments, the templates are just there to make it easier for those who may be unsure.

Templates may help you save time and normally are structured in a way that makes it easy to record your findings and therefore easier for those in the business you’re sharing it with to understand.

What to watch out for when writing your risk assessment

If you’re using templates to write your risk assessment it is important not to copy the example answers and findings that may already be filled in.

The risk assessment needs to be your own, as every business will have slightly different risks and likelihoods. Copying a risk assessment will not only be no help for your business but it also won’t meet any of the legal requirements.

How should a risk assessment be structured?

Risk assessment management process

There is no one structure fits all when it comes to producing a risk assessment, which is often why you will find varying templates for different industries. Your risk assessment will vary depending on the work you carry out, the size of your business, the materials you use and the legislation you need to comply with.

Risk assessments for new workplaces or businesses may also differ from assessments carried out in areas that have been previously assessed.

However, you will need to follow the steps below:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Consider who is at risk
  3. Evaluate risks and the actions to control them
  4. Record findings
  5. Regular review of risks assessments

How to find templates

If you’re not sure how to structure your risk assessments or where to find the correct template for your business SMAS Worksafe can offer you guidance and support.

Our templates allow you to complete your assessments to a high standard and record findings in a clear manner. SMAS Worksafe members can download our risk assessment form via our portal. Members will also have access to various other templates to help with your businesses environmental, quality, anti-bribery and financial standing policies.

You can also download and view risk assessment templates and examples on the HSE website.

An accident waiting to happen. An industrial worker using a cell phone in a warehouse.

Understanding behavioural safety hazards

Your businesses health and safety procedures are the driving force behind reducing risks within your business’s day to day tasks, but behavioural safety hazards are something that you should be aware of and reinforcing with your workforce.

Behavioural safety hazards can be caused by new rules or precautions that workers feel are unnecessary and therefore do not feel the need to carry out, or because a workforce or organisation become careless with their safety procedures and culture.

Causes of behavioural safety risks 

Woman on a ladder reaching for a box out of reach

Normally behavioural risks are caused by habits or the unwillingness to adapt to an updated system or procedure, for example, someone who has worked with certain machinery for 10 or more years without accident may not see the benefit of using the latest technology to protect themselves and are in a habit built up over those 10 years to carry out the task in a certain manner.

This doesn’t usually mean the worker is purposely being disobedient but more likely there is stubbornness or ignorance to change.

“I’ve never had issues doing it this way so why do I need to change?”

Something along the lines of the above statement is often true when you’re looking to change a policy or introduce new steps in your health and safety procedure. These habitual procedures are even more difficult to introduce when the task one is carrying out becomes either more difficult or longer to complete due to the changes. For example, someone who has previously not been required to wear gloves is now asked to wear protective gloves, but they impede his ability to complete the task due to the bigger size and lack of movement.

When implementing a change in equipment or procedures you should make sure you sell it to your workforce. Most of the updated equipment’s marketing will be around the benefits of it, how it works and what risks it will reduce and/or stop. This should be relayed to those who will be required to use it going forward so they can see why you’re making the changes.

An accident waiting to happen. An industrial worker using a cell phone in a warehouse.

Changing the behavioural habits

Managing behavioural risks are a challenge that all businesses face and changing existing procedures can be extremely difficult.

Often these behaviours become habits and they can be extremely difficult to change, but here are a few steps your business can take to reduce bad habits creeping into the workplace.

Take a no-tolerance stand

The easiest and arguably the most effective way to stop behavioural risks from entering your workplace is to make sure you have a no-tolerance stance on your health & safety procedures. This simply means that all of your workforce are aware that if they’re found to be breaking rules or taking shortcuts they will be removed from the environment. This not only will help you to weed out anyone who might be starting to set a more relaxed culture, but it also reinforces to other employees that the matter is serious.

Sell the change to your staff

As mentioned previously, make sure your staff are aware of the reasons behind the changes in procedure or equipment. Make sure they’re aware of why you’re implementing the changes and are aware of the risks that come with not following the rules. This can often be done by using examples of instances where accidents have happened or showing them some worst-case scenarios of what has happened within other businesses. Also highlighted that the changes are being made for not just the safety of them individually but also their colleagues.

Often people are more willing to change if they know that it’s more than just themselves being put at risk, the thought of causing injury to a colleague is often more powerful than injuring themselves.

Create a safety-first culture

Creating a culture within your workplace will take time but once the culture is in place you will find it’s much easier to manage changes in the long term. Often people will push the boundaries with what they can get away with and if they know the repercussions of their actions is nothing more than a stern word, then they’re far more likely to push those boundaries.

Taking a no tolerance stamp on health & safety will help to reduce people pushing those boundaries and if you can get employees to buy into the changes with your sales pitch then what you can create is a self-regulating workforce who will report or at least have words with those that are dropping their safety standards. Once this culture has been created your task becomes much easier, the safety standards are now being pushed from within teams and not from a head at the top of the business.

A step-by-step guide to improving behavioural safety:

Group training on behavioural safety

  • Review your current processes and/or equipment and decide on the areas you want to improve. Consider using previous accident, incident and near-miss reports to help you identify areas of improvement.
  • Once you’ve reviewed your procedures, select 1 or 2 key areas that can be improved. A complete overhaul of all procedures will be tougher for employees to follow and digest.
  • Begin developing your communication strategy. How are you going to present the changes to your employees? Can you use examples from your business?
  • Implement your changes with a few initiatives such as:
  1. Colleague observation studies
  2. Regular inspects from senior management
  3. Regular bite-sized training or refresher classes
  4. Reward those who excel with positive feedback and reinforcement
  5. Include behavioural risks within your risk assessments
  • Monitor the changes and make improvements and changes where necessary. Be open with your employees and ask for their feedback.
Concept of risk management control circle

Understanding RAMS: Risk Assessment Method Statements

In the United Kingdom, it is an employer’s requirement to protect your employees, and others who come into your workplace from harm and therefore using RAMS (risk assessment method statements) is a great way to identify and reduce incidents occurring.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum requirement

Risk management process

for employers is to:

  • identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
  • decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
  • take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk

There are multiple steps to reducing risks in your workplace and assessing the risks is just one part of the overall control and mitigation process.

For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward and are explained below.

 

Taking steps to reduce risks.

Risk management is a step-by-step process for controlling health and safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace.

You can do it yourself or appoint a competent person to help you.

  • Identify hazards
  • Assess the risks
  • Control the risks
  • Record your findings
  • Review the controls

 

Identify hazards

Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards).

Think about:

  • how people work and how plants and equipment are used
  • what chemicals and substances are used
  • what safe or unsafe work practices exist
  • the general state of your premises

Use your accident and ill-health records to help you to identify risks that might occur in the future. If there is a history or a trend of injuries within a workplace then use that information to stop or reduce the risks of them going forward. Take account of non-routine operations, such as maintenance, cleaning or changes in production cycles.

Think about hazards to health, such as manual handling, use of chemicals and causes of work-related stress.

For each hazard, think about how employees, contractors, visitors or members of the public might be harmed.

Talk to workers

Involve your employees, as an employer you might not have a deep understanding of all the day to day tasks other people are doing and therefore what risks they face. Asking them for input will only help you create a more complete risk assessment.

 

Vulnerable workers

Some workers might have specific requirements, for example, young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities. You should think about the requirements for all of your workforce and as mentioned previously, if you’re unsure ask them for input.

 

Assess the risks

Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious

Construction site safety notices on wooden fence

it could be. This is assessing the level of risk.

The key factors:

  • Who might be harmed and how
  • What you’re already doing to control the risks
  • What further action you need to take to control the risks
  • Who needs to carry out the action
  • When the action is needed by
  • Control the risks
  • Look at what you’re already doing, and the controls you already have in place.

 

Things you should ask yourself:

  • Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
  • If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?
  • If you need further controls, consider:
  • redesigning the job
  • replacing the materials, machinery or process
  • organising your work to reduce exposure to the materials, machinery or process
  • identifying and implementing practical measures needed to work safely
  • providing personal protective equipment and making sure workers wear it

Once you have considered all the risks your next task is to put the controlling measures you have identified in place. You’re not expected to eliminate all risks, but you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.

You can find more detailed guidance on controls relevant to your business and our in-house assessment team will also give you suggestions on anything they feel is missing.

Record your findings

If you employ 5 or more people, you must record your significant findings, these include.

  • the hazards (things that may cause harm)
  • who might be harmed and how
  • what you are doing to control the risks
  • To help you, we have a risk assessment template and examples. Do not rely purely on paperwork as your main priority should be to control the risks in practice.

 

Review your controlling measures

Once the controlling measures have been put in place you must review them to make sure they are working as you would have hoped. You should also review them if any of the following scenarios could take place:

  • they may no longer be effective
  • there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks such as changes to staff, a process, the substances or equipment used
  • also consider a review if your workers have spotted any problems or there have been any accidents or near misses.

Update your risk assessment record with any changes you make.

 

Templates and examples

Here are some example scenarios from the HSE as to whether having a risk assessment would apply to your business or job role, especially for those who are self-employed. You can also find templates for work specific risk assessments on the HSE website.

Accountant – I am a self-employed accountant and I am proposing to take on a work placement student, will the law apply to me?

Yes, you will have duties as an employer and will need to take steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of your employees.

 

Employer – I am an employer, will this affect the way in which I manage sub-contractors?

No, as an employer you have duties under health and safety law to satisfy yourself that the contractor you choose can do the job safely and without risks to health. The proposed changes will not alter the duties you as an employer have to contractors.

 

Hairdresser – I’m a self-employed hairdresser, does the law apply to me?

If you use bleaching agents or similar chemicals then yes, the law will apply to you. If you are simply washing and cutting hair, then health and safety law will no longer apply.

 

Dressmaker – I work at home altering garments and making soft furnishings, does the law apply to me?

No, health and safety law will not apply to you.

 

Photographer – I take photographs of weddings and special occasions for clients which means that sometimes they visit my studio to discuss arrangements; does the law apply to me?

No, health and safety law will not apply to you.

 

Artist – I produce cards, gifts and pictures for sale at markets and fairs, does the law apply to me?

No, health and safety law will not apply to you.

 

Baker – I run a cake business from home, does the law apply to me?

No, health and safety law will not apply to you.

 

Office work – I work in an office at home, does the law apply to me?

It doesn’t depend on whether you’re at home; it is the work activity that matters. So, if you’re working on a client’s accounts, the law will no longer apply. If you’re writing a manual, which someone will use to operate machinery, then the law will still apply.

 

Advice – I am a health and safety consultant and visit clients to give advice, does the law apply to me?

Yes, your clients will act on your advice and this affects how other people do their job.

 

Landlords – I let rooms and properties to tenants; does the law apply to me?

Yes, you have specific responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations

 

For the full Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 use the link below.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3242/contents/made