How to carry out a risk assessment

How to correctly identify hazards when carrying out a risk assessment

Identify hazards in risk assessments

A risk assessment is a systematic method of looking at work activities, considering what could go wrong, and deciding on suitable control measures. These control measures are designed to eliminate, reduce or minimize the risks of loss, damage or injury in the workplace.

It is a legal requirement for all organisations to carry out a risk assessment. If you have five or more employees you must also keep a written record of it.

This information is current, but it is important to consider issues in your workplace that are specific to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and make suitable arrangements to keep your staff safe. For more information and advice on how to carry out a risk assessment for managing the risk of transmission in the workplace, go to our risk assessment for COVID-19.

The first thing to do when carrying out a risk assessment is to identify potential hazards in your workplace. Think of what could go wrong and how people could get hurt or made ill.

You should:

  • speak to your employees – they may be aware of hazards that aren't so obvious to you
  • observe the tasks carried out by your employees
  • check your accident, near miss and ill-health records
  • read instructions for tools and equipment – they will inform you of hazards
  • check the information contained within safety data sheets for hazardous substances
  • consider other situations – such as problems with equipment, machinery, maintenance or cleaning

Common hazards

Some common hazards that could be found in your organisation include:

You can find out more about these in our health and safety risks sections.

Carry out a risk assessment

Once you are familiar with all the steps explained in this guide, you can carry out a risk assessment using our form.

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Specific risk assessments

The risk assessment process should be used to identify hazards in your work activity and to evaluate the control measures that you have in place to manage these risks.

The aim is to ensure that your activities are carried out without risks to the health and safety of your employees and others.

You may identify some risks that require you to take a slightly different approach when evaluating the risk they pose to health and safety.

These risks need a different approach because of their complexity or specific legal requirements.

For example, if you identify noise as a hazard during a risk assessment, then you should read the specific guidance about noise and carry out a noise risk assessment.

Guidance and resources to help you with specific risk assessments include: