Understanding Risk Assessments at Work

Risk assessments at work - a man in a white hard hat with a hi-vis vest on with a clip board assessing a large grey circle containers

When should you carry out risk assessments?

Risk assessments at work are not an optional part of business operation, rather they’re a fundamental and necessary step that every business owner should routinely undertake. They act as a protective element, mitigating hazards that might harm the health and safety of your employees, disrupt operations, or impacting your business’ reputation

It’s essential to recognize that conducting risk assessments at work is a continuous process, not a one-time event.

Why? Because business environments change frequently and new measures/procedures are developed. As your business evolves and grows, so do the potential risks it faces. Thus, maintaining an updated risk assessment is crucial for reducing/minimising hazards to employees and 3rd parties.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations mandates risk assessments at work as a legal obligation for all employers. These regulations aim to assess the risks to your employees’ health and safety, emphasising the importance of creating a safe working environment.

Specifically, certain risk assessments at work are a statutory requirement for specific demographics, such as pregnant employees, lone workers and young individuals (aged 16 – 18 years). These groups may be more susceptible to certain hazards, hence the need for tailored risks assessments that accommodate their unique needs.

In fact, if you employ more than five people, the law requires that your risk assessments be documented. Having these written down is not only a compliance issue but also best practice your business. This record-keeping ensures accountability, provides a reference for future assessments, and serves as concrete proof of your diligent efforts in maintaining a safe work environment.

So, when should you carry out risk assessments at work? The simple answer is always, but more specifically when:

      • Setting up a new operation or starting a new project.

      • Employing new personnel, particularly those belonging to vulnerable groups.

      • A near miss or an accident has occurred.

      • Introducing new machinery, substances, or procedures.

    When should you review your risk assessments?

    Regular reviews should be an integral part of your risk management strategy. However, some instances necessitate immediate review:

        • If there’s a significant change in staff, process, or the working environment.

        • After an accident or a near-miss incident.

        • If the findings of a previous risk assessment are no longer valid or accurate.

        • If a health and safety representative identifies a need for a review.

      Risk assessments at work are an ongoing obligation and responsibility. They should be carried out continuously, adapted to changes, and reviewed regularly to ensure they accurately reflect the current state of your business.

      Always stay vigilant to potential risks and ready to take action. Remember, a well-conducted risk assessment isn’t just about compliance; it’s a vital step towards a safe working environment.

      What is the difference between Risk management and risk assessments?

      As a business owner, safeguarding your business from potential risks is crucial for ensuring to creation a safe working environment and success of the business. An essential element is risk management – a process of identifying, assessing, and eliminating risks that could cost your company financially. While monetary losses are the most evident, other potential damages include harm to your business’ reputation, operational disruptions, and decrease workforce morale.

      Risk management is part of your strategic planning. It encompasses a range of preventive measures and contingency plans designed to prepare your company for unexpected incidents and accidents. The implementation of risk management creates significant benefits, including creating a safer and secure working environment.

      Central to the concept of risk management is the process of conducting risk assessments in the workplace. This crucial first step in effective risk management serves as a guiding light, leading your business towards an environment characterised by safety and security.

      A risk assessment at work, in essence, is a five-step process applicable to health and safety concerns or any other risk-prone areas within your business:

      1. Identify the hazard: Distinguish any aspect of your work environment which has the potential to cause harm.
      2. Estimate the risk: Who may be affected, how might they be harmed, how likely is it that harm will occur, and how serious would the outcome be?
      3. Evaluate the risk: following estimating the risks , brainstorm how the business will control/eliminate the risks.
      4. Record the findings: Document your results for future reference, providing a solid foundation for making data-driven decisions.
      5. Review your findings: Re-evaluate your assessment regularly to accommodate changes and maintain an up-to-date risk management strategy.

      In terms of Health and Safety, a risk assessment is an evaluation of anything in your workplace that could cause injury or ill health while at work. But remember, risk assessments extend beyond just health and safety; they envelop every aspect of your business, from operational risks to those associated with your supply chain.

      Understanding risk assessments at work is pivotal for business owners aiming for sustainable growth. It’s key to a robust risk management strategy that not only safeguards your business against potential threats but also increases employee safety.

      Equip yourself with the knowledge and tools of risk assessments to navigate your business successfully through the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship.


      We can help build your knowledge of risk assessments, helping to navigate the complexities of health and safety. Allowing your more time to focus on growing your business, as we have health and safety covered. 

      When to review risk assessments at work

      Risk assessments are a cornerstone of your health and safety management system. They act as your business’s first line of defence, identifying potential hazards that could harm your employees or disrupt operations. However, a risk assessment’s usefulness isn’t a one-and-done affair; it’s an ongoing process. This means the risk assessments must be reviewed and updated regularly to maintain their effectiveness and relevance.

      Although there’s no legally defined time period for how often you should review your risk assessments, many companies opt for annual reviews. This timing aligns well with most business cycles and allows for integration into other annual processes such as strategic planning or performance reviews. However, the “one size fits all” approach may not be suitable for every business. The frequency of reviews should ideally be determined by the level of risk and the rate of change within your workplace.

      While scheduled reviews are a proactive way to keep your risk assessments updated, there are certain situations that necessitate immediate revision. These include:

      Effectiveness: If there’s reason to believe that your existing risk assessments may no longer be effective in identifying and controlling risks, a review is warranted.

      Changes in the workplace: Any modification in the workplace that could lead to new risks calls for a fresh assessment. This includes changes to staff, processes, substances or equipment used. These changes could introduce new hazards or alter how existing hazards should be managed.

      Incidents: If workers spot any problems, or if there have been accidents or near misses, it’s time to review your risk assessments. These incidents could be a sign that current risk control measures are inadequate.

      Legislation changes: Law amendments often have implications on how businesses should manage their risks. Always stay updated with the latest legal requirements and adjust your risk assessments accordingly. The HSE / HSENI govern the health and safety across Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

      **Remember** the goal of reviewing your risk assessments at work is not just to comply with legal obligations but to create a safe working environment. By reviewing and updating your risk assessments regularly, you are taking a proactive stance in reducing risks, protecting your employees, and ensuring your business operations continue to thrive in a safe working environment.

      Risk assessments at work are health and safety tools, so allow them to evolve with your business. A robust and up-to-date risk assessment is a key element in maintaining a safe working environment.

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