The purpose of risk assessment is to help you identify the significant risks of your work to ensure that control measures are in place to protect people against harm so that the work can be carried out safely. The Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of workers to which they are exposed whilst at work and to others who might be affected by the work. You are legally required to assess the risks in your work so that you can put in place measures to control the risks. The law does not expect you to eliminate all risks but you are required to protect people as far as reasonably practicable by controlling the risks of your work. University policy requires that all units have robust systems in place to manage the risks associated with their activities and risk assessment and control are critical for this process.
Hazards and Risks
It is important to understand the difference between hazard and risk. A hazard is anything which has the potential to cause harm. A risk is a combination of the likelihood and consequences of harm if actually exposed to the hazard.
Risk Assessment and Controls
Managers and principal investigators are responsible for ensuring that risk assessments are actually done, effective controls are established for the work and they are recorded, regularly monitored and reviewed where needed. The risk assessment should identify the hazards, decide who is at risk, assess the level of risks to people and establish suitable controls to ensure that the work can be done safely. Risk assessments must be carried out by competent persons and done before work starts. Remember that the objective of risk assessment is to enable you to control the risks of your work in actual practice.
Risk Assessment Form
To carry out your risk assessment you should first download a risk assessment form.
You should follow the HSE guidance on five steps to risk assessment which is described below and will help you carry out your risk assessment. You can if you wish use the action plan form to develop a formal plan from your risk assessment to record your decisions on how you will prioritise and implement your controls and who will be responsible for each of the actions.
HSE Five Steps to Risk Assessment
The Health and Safety Executive provide practical step by step guidance on its website on how to carry out a risk assessment together with supporting information and example risk assessments for all sorts of work.
Please read the following guidance on each step since it will help you understand how to best do your risk assessments and safely carry out the work.
If you need any advice on risk assessments and controls then please first contact your safety coordinator who is there to advise you on all aspects of health and safety. Managers and safety coordinators can be obtain more detailed advice where necessary from SEPS.
Risk Assessments Must Be Suitable and Sufficient
Risk assessments have to be suitable and sufficient and as such must have a broad enough scope so that they identify and establish measures to protect against all significant risks not just the most obvious ones associated with the work. This will enable valid decisions to be made about what needs to be done to eliminate or adequately control the risks related to all aspects of the work including the routine and non routine work as well as any reasonably foreseeable emergencies where things may go wrong. The risk assessment must take account of groups of people who may be particularly vulnerable to risks such as visitors, young persons and pregnant women.
It is important that the risk assessment is clear and statements about risks and controls are properly justified. Avoid being unnecessarily restrictive and try to anticipate future changes and incorporate these into the risk assessment. The information should be kept as brief as possible and focused on what is needed to understand the risk assessment. It must be able to be understood without referring to any other documents but you can certainly add useful supporting references such as official guidance, standards and scientific publications. Remember that you are writing a risk assessment so you do not have to justify doing the work only that it will be done safely.
The controls must be effective enough to ensure that the work can be done safely while protecting workers and any other people who might be affected by the work. Risk assessments need to be sufficiently specific but should however be easily understood by your colleagues, workers, safety advisers and HSE inspectors. All workers must be provided with appropriate information, instructions and training on the hazards, risks and controls of the work to enable them to safely and competently perform their work.