Risk Assessment is one of the core features of any Health, Safety or Environmental management system.
In this short guide, we are going to take you through the what, why and how of Risk Assessment templates – giving you the basics on how to assess risk in your business.
Don’t forget to pick up your free, fillable Risk Assessment Template below.
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Learn more about Risk Assessments
What is Risk Assessment?
A health and safety risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what could cause harm to people.
This helps identify the actions you need to take to prevent injury and ill-health.
Watch our video for a quick overview…
Risk Assessment Templates - Why are they so important?
The Health and Safety Executive in the UK clearly states that risk assessments should not be unnecessarily complicated and only focus on the significant hazards. It makes sense, because you have to be able to effectively communicate the outcomes of them.
In the UK, if you have 5 or more employee’s, you need to record your risk assessment by law. If you are an employer, it’s wise to record it in any case.
Using our fillable Risk Assessment Templates, you can make informed decisions to keep your operations running smoothly and prevent harm to people, the environment and your business.
How to use your Risk Assessment Template
The key part of using a risk assessment template is assessing the level of risk.
A common method of assessing the level of risk is to assign a value to each of two component parts – Likelihood and Severity.
As you can see from the risk matrix below, a combination of Severity x Likelihood = Risk.
As shown in the risk matrix, the number chosen for each element (Likelihood and Severity) represents a level of significance e.g. high, medium or low.
Severity – How bad is the outcome likely to be i.e. the severity of injury or illness?
Likelihood – What are the chances of it happening with the current controls in place?
Using a risk matrix for your workplace risk assessment allows you to look at each hazard separately and decide how significant the risk might be.
The example above is a basic ‘Risk Matrix’ – it is quite simple, but of course that makes it easy to interpret and it does just fine for most applications.
You may find matrices that are much more detailed or complex, but they usually work along the same principles.
Our Advanced Risk Assessment Template allows you to use a risk matrix that is a bit more detailed than the Basic version.
It should be used when you have more hazards and want to prioritise more definitively.
It’s important to note, that the intention of a risk matrix is not to provide a specific, ‘quantitative’ measurement of risk. We aren’t ‘measuring’ anything physically. It does, however, allow the assessor to prioritise according to the perceived risk level.
It’s up to us to decide the following for each hazard or work activity:
- Likelihood (1-3) – how likely an accident it is that someone will come to harm.
- Severity (1-3) – the seriousness of the potential injury or illness
Before we go further, you might want to consider grabbing a copy of our Risk Assessment Template bundle – including advance templates and real examples.
Risk Assessment Templates Bundle
Thinking back to the basic risk matrix on our risk assessment template.
How would you rate the following scenario (see image) when thinking about the ‘Severity’ and ‘Likelihood’ of a collision between the forklift and a pedestrian?
Severity – if a pedestrian was hit by the forklift truck, what might the consequences be?
The weight, build & function of a counter-balance forklift makes serious injury a common outcome. Hopefully you will agree that the potential severity of the injuries could be very high. In many cases, this type of collision can be fatal.
So with those factors in taken into account, we would have to score this as a 3 (Major Injury) in our risk matrix.
Likelihood – when considering the chance that a collision would happen in this specific scenario, how likely would it be?
The driver is moving with a raised load (obscured view) and there is no physical segregation between the person and the forklift. The pedestrian is not wearing anything to make him easily visible to the driver.
Given these factors, we would have to say that a collision is highly likely.
Rating the Risks
If we rate the Severity as 3 (Major) and the Likelihood as 3 (Very Likely), that means we end up with a risk assessment rating of 9.
As you can see if you look back at the risk matrix, 9 is the highest score. This would normally indicate that there is much room for improvement. Also, that action should be urgently prioritised.
As you can see below, there are many factors that can contribute to the likelihood being high or low in your workplace risk assessment.
As for severity, there usually aren’t so many variables that will change the degree of harm that will be caused.This is most often the case, unless there is a significant change made to remove the hazard or substitute the methods used.
Deciding on Control Measures
Now that we’ve determined the risk level using our risk matrix, we need to decide if the risks are at a reasonable or acceptable level. Or, if we need to put further control measures in place.
Control measures include actions that can be taken to reduce the potential of exposure to the hazard.
These risk control strategies can vary extensively in terms of effectiveness, and if the risk is high, multiple layers of control may need to be considered.
So, if we are looking at a specific hazard, how do we assess the options for reducing risk?
When we are considering options to mitigate or reduce risk, we often refer to the ‘hierarchy of control measures’ as part of the workplace risk assessment process.
If you’d like to find out more on the process of choosing control measures for your Health and Safety Risk Assessment, listen to our podcast below!