Risk Assessment

The University of Glasgow carries out many activities that may, unless appropriately controlled, create risks to staff, students and others who enter and use our facilities, and to the environment.  For both legal and moral reasons the University must reduce these risks to a level which is as low as reasonably practicable.  Central to an effective health and safety management programme is the process of risk assessment.  Risk assessment is a legal requirement under safety legislation and units MUST have procedures in place for this.  These procedures must be documented and must make clear the responsibilities of the staff within the unit for risk assessment of the work carried on by the unit

A risk assessment is a systematic examination of the hazards that may exist in the work of the unit to identify how these may cause significant harm to people and to identify the measures needed to control the risks that exist. 

 Legal requirements

Health and safety law explicitly requires risk assessment from two main sources; 

  • Firstly, the Management of Health Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require that an assessment be made of every work activity to identify the hazards present and to inform decisions on what needs to be done to control each of these. This will usually demand a generic risk assessment of the unit's activities, in the first instance, to identify those matters that can be dealt with by basic administrative arrangements, recorded within the local safety policy and those that require more detailed and specific risk assessments and control measures.
  • Risk assessment is also required by various topic-specific regulations and demands risk assessment of particular hazards, or elements of these. Assessment of chemical risk under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) is possibly the best known example of this.  Various other regulations that contain specific requirements for risk assessment are indentified within the A_Z Safety Topic Guide produced by SEPS. 

For any particular task, or area of activity, the hazard-specific assessments required by individual regulations can form part of the more broad-ranging assessments required by the Management Regulations.  Where the risks are commonplace and low this may be the best approach to take.  Where risks are more complex and it is usual for individual risk assessment documents that are focussed on particular activities or on “one-off” tasks to be prepared.

 Risk assessment strategy

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published extensive guidance on how to approach risk assessment.  This guidance is available via their website and provides an extremely useful resource for both training and reference purposes.  The HSE risk management page is located here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/.

 HSE consider risk assessment to be a 5 step process.

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  4. Record your findings and implement them
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary.

The legal requirement to risk assess ALL work is very demanding and SEPS would recommend that units try to categorise work within their unit and assess their activities generically in the first instance, gradually focussing down onto those tasks and activities that are identified as being of higher risk.  For these, individual risk assessment documentation will generally be needed.  Tasks that are carried out away from the University or those that are periodic maintenance jobs or simply are one-off tasks should not be overlooked.  Remember also that it is the task that is being assessed; risk assessment is not simply a workplace or work equipment inspection but must consider the task or activity in its entirety. Risks to staff, students, visitors, to the public and the environment should, where appropriate, be considered.

Further information on risk assessment, is available within the risk assessment section of SEPS website.  This includes example risk assessment templates for some activities, including an example completed template covering office work.  This can be found on the office safety webpage. 

A University Risk Assessment template is available here and can be used for most general risk assessments.

General risk assessment form