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Risk assessment

A risk assessment is a careful examination of what could cause harm to people in the workplace. Doing a risk assessment will help employers identify the significant risks in their workplace, and avoid wasted effort by effectively targeting these. A good risk assessment will help avoid accidents and ill health, which can not only ruin lives, but can also increase costs to business through lost output, compensation claims and higher insurance premiums.

Risk assessment is a five stage process and involves:

General advice on how to carry out a risk assessment is contained in 'Controlling the risks in the workplace'. Involving employees and safety representatives in the risk assessment process is a highly effective way of identifying hazards and developing solutions that work.

Legal requirement to undertake risk assessments

Employers have a legal obligation to protect their health and safety and that of their workforce. Regulation 3, of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, requires, among other things, that all employers assess the risks to the health and safety of their employees while they are at work.

Risk assessment specific to MSDs

Manual handling

As well as the requirements for a general risk assessment, there is a requirement in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) to carry out a risk assessment on manual handling tasks. The main areas to focus on are the task, load, working environment and individual capability.

HSE have produced the Manual Handling Assessment Chart (MAC), which can be used to help identify high-risk tasks. The MAC does not comprise a full risk assessment, as some aspects, such as individual factors, are not covered.

You can get further help in assessing tasks that include pushing and pulling from the Push Pull tool.

The guidance on the manual handling Regulations contains a risk assessment filter and checklist to help employers assess manual handling tasks. It also includes a checklist to help you assess the risk posed by workplace pushing and pulling activities.

Upper limb disorders, Repetitive stress injury

In relation to upper limb disorders, the filter and risk assessment worksheets featured in the guidance booklet Upper limb disorders in the workplace can be used as an aid to risk assessment. They are intended to help employers identify the potential risks and possible ways to reduce them.

HSE have produced the Assessment of Repetitive Tasks tool (ART), which can be used to help identify high-risk tasks. The ART does not comprise a full risk assessment, as some aspects, such as individual factors, are not covered.


The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 (as amended) require employers to undertake an analysis of the workstation to assess and reduce risks. To assist employers to comply with the minimum requirements we have produced a visual display unit (VDU) workstation checklist as an aid to risk assessment. It is available in the two guidance documents Work with display screen equipment and The law on VDUs: An easy guide. You can also buy the VDU workstation checklist separately in packs of five. See information page.

More information

A risk assessment should cover all standard operations, including cleaning and maintenance activities. It should reflect how the work is actually done.

Here are just some of the other tools that are available to be used to assess various occupational tasks or jobs. Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list and that there maybe other, more applicable, approaches that assess the task or job more accurately.