A guide to effective risk assessments

Every employer that takes business seriously will want to make sure that a comprehensive workplace risk assessment is carried out, to safeguard staff, customers and visitors. A solid risk assessment is a vital document.

Big employers will have an HR department responsible for the process, but for smaller businesses, even knowing how to start drafting the document can seem confusing.

If you need to put together a risk assessment, here are the five basic steps to follow.


Employers have a duty of care for the health and safety of their workers.

Break down potential hazards into the four most common categories and carry out a systemic check of the workplace, carefully listing each risk:

  • Physical – Any activity where the body interacts with the workspace, which can be as simple as tripping or slipping on a floor, step or over a cable. Other physical hazards are lifting, noise, dust, moving equipment and machinery or even staring at a computer screen for a long time.
  • Mental – Anything in the workplace that can cause stress. Examples include bullying, long hours, tough targets or even dealing with difficult customers
  • Chemical – This can cover toxic raw materials integral to work processes as well as those which are used for peripheral purposes, such as liquids for cleaning or asbestos in the building
  • Biological – Health and home care workers, lab technicians and the like could be exposed to infectious diseases while at work


Once you have a list of potential risks, compile a list of people who could be affected by each one. The list should go beyond staff to include any visitor or customer coming to your premises who might also potentially face one or more of the risks identified.

Don’t forget people with special needs who may face additional hazards if they have impaired sight, hearing or lack mobility.

Risk scorecard

Rank the potential risk of each hazard leading to harm and consider the precautions that need taking to minimise the problem. After acting to reduce the risk, score the likelihood of harm as high, medium or low.


Compile a full risk assessment document. Businesses with five or more employees are required to list the main findings, together with recommendations to minimise potential risks, describing when and how they were carried out.

The person undertaking the risk assessment should sign and date each entry in the log.


Completing the risk assessment is not the end of the process. The document should be kept live and regularly reviewed, especially if working practices change, new equipment or raw materials are brought in.

Managers should have access to the risk assessment and be aware of the contents.

Consider appointing a suitably experienced and qualified health and safety officer to take responsibility for the risk assessment and how the recommendations are carried out.

Employers should also ensure new employees are instructed about health and safety rules.

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