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Steps needed to manage risk

Risk management is a step-by-step process for controlling health and safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace.

You can do it yourself or appoint a competent person to help you.

Identify hazards

Look around your workplace and think about what may cause harm (these are called hazards). Think about:

  • how people work and how plant and equipment are used
  • what chemicals and substances are used
  • what safe or unsafe work practices exist
  • the general state of your premises

Look back at your accident and ill health records as these can help you identify less obvious hazards. Take account of non-routine operations, such as maintenance, cleaning or changes in production cycles. 

Think about hazards to health, such as manual handling, use of chemicals and causes of work-related stress.

For each hazard, think about how employees, contractors, visitors or members of the public might be harmed.

Vulnerable workers

Some workers have particular requirements, for example young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities.

Talk to workers

Involve your employees as they will usually have good ideas.

Assess the risks

Once you have identified the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious it could be. This is assessing the level of risk.  

Decide:

  • Who might be harmed and how
  • What you’re already doing to control the risks
  • What further action you need to take to control the risks
  • Who needs to carry out the action
  • When the action is needed by

Control the risks

Look at what you’re already doing, and the controls you already have in place. Ask yourself:

  • Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?
  • If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?

If you need further controls, consider:

  • redesigning the job
  • replacing the materials, machinery or process
  • organising your work to reduce exposure to the materials, machinery or process
  • identifying and implementing practical measures needed to work safely
  • providing personal protective equipment and making sure workers wear it

Put the controls you have identified in place. You’re not expected to eliminate all risks but you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.

You can find more detailed guidance on controls relevant to your business.

Record your findings

If you employ 5 or more people, you must record your significant findings, including.

  • the hazards (things that may cause harm)
  • who might be harmed and how
  • what you are doing to control the risks 

To help you, we have a risk assessment template and examples. Do not rely purely on paperwork as your main priority should be to control the risks in practice.

Review the controls

You must review the controls you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if:

  • they may no longer be effective
  • there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks such as changes to:
    • staff
    • a process
    • the substances or equipment used

Also consider a review if your workers have spotted any problems or there have been any accidents or near misses.

Update your risk assessment record with any changes you make.

Updated 2020-02-03