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Control the risks in your business

As part of managing the health and safety of your business, you must control the risks in your workplace.

 To do this you need to think about what, in your business, might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This is known as a risk assessment. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will tell you whether you have covered all you need to.

A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.

You should record your significant findings, but there is no need to record everyday risks. Keep it simple and focus on controls. If you have fewer than five employees you don't have to write anything down.

The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. Your risk assessment need only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

For most low-risk businesses controlling risks is straightforward. HSE has created tools to help you. We have online risk assessment tools to help businesses working in offices and shops complete their risk assessment quickly (www.hse.gov.uk/risk/assessment.htm).

We also have a selection of example risk assessments. They show you what a completed risk assessment might look like for your type of business. You can use these as a guide when doing your own.

An easy way to record your findings is to use the risk assessment template. available in Microsoft Word or Open Document Format. This template also includes a section for your health and safety policy so you can record everything in one place.

How do I assess the risks in my workplace?

A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and look for any hazards,( things that may cause harm).

Then think about the risk, which is the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by the hazard, and how serious the harm could be.

Think about how accidents could happen and who might be harmed. Ask your employees what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks.

Concentrate on the real risks – those that are most likely to cause harm. Consider the measures you are already taking to control the risks and ask if you have covered all you need to do.

Once you have identified the risks and what you need to do to control them, you should put the appropriate measures in place. 

Then record your significant findings. Any paperwork you produce should help you to manage the risks in your business and tell people what they need to know. For most people this does not need to be a big exercise – just note the main points down about the significant risks and what you concluded.

 If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down.

You can get more help and ideas on ways to control your risks by going to the health and safety toolbox pages on our website

Few workplaces stay the same and sooner or later you will bring in new equipment, substances or procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense to review your risk assessment on a regular basis. If anything significant changes, check your risk assessment and update it.

Stop check!

Don’t forget to consider everyone who could be harmed

  • Some workers may have particular requirements, for example new and young workers, new or expectant mothers, and people with disabilities.  You can get more help on our diversity pages.
  • Think about homeworkers, and people who might not be in the workplace all the time, such as visitors, contractors and maintenance workers.
  • Take members of the public into account, if they could be hurt by your work activities.
  • If you share a workplace with another business, you will need to consider how your work affects others and how their work affects you and your staff. Talk to each other and work together to make sure controls are in place.

Specific risks

  • For some risks there are particular control measures that are required by law. The HSE website homepage has information on topics and industries to help you decide what you need to do about many common types of risk.
  • A few examples of activities that carry a recognised risk of harm are working at height, working with chemicals, machinery, gas, electricity and asbestos. Depending on the type of work you do, there may be other risks that are relevant to your business.
  • If you carry out a high-risk activity, check whether you need to obtain a licence or notify someone before you start work. See our website for further information and all the necessary notification forms.
Updated 2016-06-30