Health & Safety Risk Assessment

Conducting a health and safety risk assessment is a vital task to stay compliant.

After all, without taking a close look at your working environment to identify the hazards that are present and assess the effectiveness of your controls, how can you be sure that workplace is safe and that you are abiding by all relevant laws?

When it comes to health and safety, adopting a proactive approach is key. But where do you start with a health and safety risk assessment? What are the elements employers need to cover? And what should happen next?

Here’s a rundown of everything employers need to know in order to conduct a thorough and thought-provoking health and safety risk assessment of their premises from which positive changes to the working environment working practices can be made.

If in doubt, strapped for time, or not confident in your ability to conduct one yourself, WorkNest’s experienced Health & Safety Team can conduct a General Risk Assessment for you.

What is a risk assessment, and do I need one?


Put simply, a risk assessment is a careful examination of what, in your workplace, has the potential to cause harm to people – whether that be employees, volunteers or members of the public.

Under Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 (HSWA), employers have a legal duty to protect the healthsafety and welfare of their employees and anybody else who might be affected by their activities. In order to fulfil this duty, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that employers must conduct a risk assessment of their premises to identify these potential causes of harm and take steps to reduce the likelihood of accidents.

 As part of your risk assessment, you should:

  • Identify possible causes of harm within the workplace and who may be harmed;
  • Evaluate the likelihood of that harm occurring given the safeguards you have in place; and
  • Put in place further safeguarding measures where necessary to reduce the risk to as low a level as reasonably practicable.

The aim is to decide what steps are needed to reduce injury and ill health and comply with health and safety law. With rising health and safety fines and the HSE more rigorously pursuing enforcement action against those found to be in material breach of health and safety law, it’s more important than ever to ensure risk is appropriately managed in order to avoid significant financial penalties and damage to your reputation.

If you employ five or more members of staff, it is a legal requirement to keep a written record of the the main findings of your risk assessment. Even if you have fewer than five members of staff, it’s good practice to document your risk assessments, as this will help you to demonstrate the steps you have taken to create a safe and compliant working environment.

Free Download: Definitive Guide to General Risk Assessments

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How do I conduct a risk assessment?

Performing a risk assessment can seem like a daunting task, but breaking it down into manageable steps can simplify the process. At WorkNest, we recommend a six-step approach:


  1. Identify hazards: Walk around your workplace, keeping your eyes open and taking a common sense approach to identifying hazards. Look at what could be reasonably expected to cause a health and safety problem. These hazards could range from physical hazards like slippery floors to chemical hazards like exposure to harmful substances.Also involve your employees in this process, as they may have noticed something that’s not immediately obvious.
  2. Decide who might be harmed: Once hazards are identified,consider who in your workplace might be affected by them. This includes employees, contractors, visitors, and even members of the public if they could be impacted by your activities.Young workers, trainees, new and expectant mothers may be particularly at risk.
  3. Evaluate the risk level: Assess the likelihood and severity of the identified risks. This involves considering how likely it is that a hazard will cause harm and the potential severity of that harm. Risk matrix charts can help establish whether the residual risk is high, medium or low.
  4. Decide whether existing risk controls are sufficient: The effectiveness of your existing controls needs to be assessed in order to estimate the residual risk.Some hazards such as fire, electricity, lead and asbestos have specific regulations that apply such as Approved Codes of Practice or guidance. You should review them and put in place any recommendations. Check existing preventative measures are working properly and make sure everyone clearly understands their purpose.
  5. Keep a record of findings: You must document the findings of your general risk assessment if you have five or more employees. This means writing down the significant hazards and conclusions. Employees must also be told of the findings.This documentation serves as a record of your efforts to manage workplace risks and can be valuable for future reference or in the event of an inspection or audit.
  6. Monitor and review: Risk assessments should not be static documents. Regularly monitor the effectiveness of your risk control measures and review your risk assessment periodically or whenever there are significant changes in your workplace environment. This ensures that your risk management processes remain relevant and effective over time.


In identifying hazards, you may have noticed that some risks have already been addressed. As an employer, it is your legal duty to reduce the remaining ‘residual risk’ to as low a level as is ‘reasonably practicable’.

It is important to note that you are not expected to completely eliminate all risks. The HSE advise that the risk assessment process is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork; it is about identifying and implementing sensible and proportionate control measures to keep risk to a minimum. 

Types of health and safety risk assessment

Risk assessments can vary in their approach and focus depending on the nature of the business, industry, and specific hazards present. At WorkNest, we understand that each organisation is unique, which is why our teams are adaptable and equipped to work with a diverse range of businesses and industries.

  • General Risk Assessment: The main objective of a a General Risk Assessment (GRA) is to decide what steps you need to take to comply with Health and Safety law. This type of risk assessment is suitable for most workplaces and focuses on identifying and mitigating common hazards such as slips, trips, and falls, manual handling risks, fire hazards, and ergonomic issues. It forms the foundation of health and safety management for many organisations.
  • Task-Based Risk Assessment: Task-based risk assessments are tailored to specific activities or tasks within a workplace. They analyse the hazards associated with particular tasks, such as operating machinery, working at heights, or handling hazardous substances. By focusing on individual tasks, this type of assessment allows for more targeted risk control measures.
  • Sector-Specific Risk Assessment: Certain industries have unique risks that require specialised risk assessments. For example, construction sites face hazards like working at heights, exposure to noise and vibration, and moving vehicles, while healthcare facilities must contend with risks related to infection control, patient handling, and exposure to biohazards. WorkNest teams are experienced in conducting sector-specific risk assessments and are familiar with the specific regulations and best practices applicable to different industries.
  • Site-Specific Risk Assessment: Businesses operating across multiple locations or sites may need to conduct site-specific risk assessments to address the unique hazards present at each site. Factors such as geographical location, layout, infrastructure, and local regulations can influence the risks associated with a particular site. Our teams can tailor risk assessments to address the specific needs of each site while ensuring consistency in risk management practices across the organisation.
  • Specialist Risk Assessment: In some cases, businesses may require specialist risk assessments to address particular hazards or comply with specific regulatory requirements. Examples include environmental risk assessments, radiation risk assessments, and asbestos risk assessments.

WorkNest’s Health & Safety consultants have the expertise and resources to conduct specialist risk assessments and provide tailored solutions to meet the needs of diverse industries and businesses.

I’ve done a risk assessment – what happens next?

Once you’ve identified potential hazards and evaluated your existing controls, you should create a Prioritised Action Plan that details what new or remedial measures are needed and sets a timescale for reducing risk.

  • High-risk activities should normally be tackled immediately;
  • Medium risks in days/weeks; and
  • Low risks in months.

In some cases, no action will be needed. However, you must make sure you’re complying with the law by reducing risk to as low a level as reasonably practicable.

WorkNest’s qualified consultants will work with you to create and execute a Prioritised Safety Action Plan, which will ensure all necessary steps are taken to rectify any health and safety shortcomings uncovered by your risk assessment.

How often do I need to conduct a risk assessment?

Risk assessments are living documents and should be reviewed at least annually. There are a number of things that may also prompt a review sooner than planned, including:

  • Accidents, ill health and dangerous occurrences (or ‘near misses’);
  • Significant changes to personnel or work practices; and
  • If there is a reason to believe that the current risk assessment is no longer valid.

Generally speaking, whenever there is a change that could lead to new hazards, or a suggestion that existing controls aren’t effective, an up-to-date risk assessment will be required.

Who should do the Risk Assessment?

Risk assessments can be carried out externally by experienced Health & Safety Consultants or you can assess the risks yourself with the help of standard Risk Assessment guide. 

However, while you may be tempted to tackle the process internally, organisations should only conduct risk assessments themselves if they confidently understand what’s involved.

The Management Regulations state that employers must have health and safety assistance from ‘competent persons’. In other words, whoever does the risk assessment must be able to make sure that you’re complying with health and safety law.

Importantly, your competent persons must have “sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities” in order to be able to identify risks and evaluate how effectively those risks are being controlled.

When deciding whether an individual can be considered ‘competent’, you should ask yourself:

  • Have they had relevant training, such as a course accredited by IOSH?
  • Do they have practical knowledge and experience of managing health and safety?
  • Do they have the appropriate skills and technical ability to develop solutions to problems?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise that if you are not confident in your ability to manage health and safety internally, you can appoint an external Health & Safety specialist to act as one of your legally required competent persons.

Take the stress out of risk assessment

In identifying and evaluating health and safety risks, much depends on the activity and organisation – and there can be no ‘one size fits all’ assessment. The duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is therefore a heavy one, and one which requires specialist expertise.

If you’re not confident that you have the sufficient training, experience or knowledge to take on a risk assessment yourself, WorkNest can do this for you at your premises.

In addition to on-site risk assessment support, your dedicated Health & Safety Consultant will:

  • Act as one of your legally-required competent persons to ensure you meet the requirements of health and safety law and are prepared for HSE inspections;
  • Expertly create a Health & Safety Policy and Health & Safety Handbook tailored to your organisation; and
  • Ensure you are kept up to date with changes to legislation and best practice so that you can operate with complete confidence.

Health & Safety Software: The simple solution to risk assessment

Included as part of our core Health & Safety service, our award-winning Health & Safety Software will revolutionise your approach to auditing.

Here, you can monitor and control the actions identified in your General and Fire Risk Assessment, assign ownership to those responsible for actioning each task, and pull your data into one risk status indicator.

Talk to the professionals

Health and safety law is vast, complex and constantly changing, and if you’re not an expert, it can be easy to miss the mark. That’s why thousands of businesses across the UK trust WorkNest to expertly manage their compliance and take the pressure off day-to-day health and safety management.

Our network of specialist Heath & Safety Consultants have recognised Health & Safety qualifications and over 350 years’ combined experience of keeping clients safe. Owing to the expertise of our consultants and our ability to find workable solutions to any health and safety challenge, we reduce the risk of being served with an enforcement notice by 60% compared to the national average.

If you’re looking for risk assessment support, facing a health and safety issue, or keen to elevate your current practices, WorkNest is best placed to support you and keep your organisation on the right side of the law.

For more information, call 0345 226 8393 or request a consultation using the button below.

Health & Safety Guides

Is a risk assessment a legal requirement?

Yes. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, all employers, regardless of size or sector, must undertake a “suitable and sufficient” assessment of the health and safety of risks their employees are exposed to while at work, as well as the risks to any non-employees (customers, visitors, contractors, etc.) who may be affected by their activities. If you employ five or more employees, it is a legal requirement to keep a written record of your assessment and significant findings.

For each hazard identified, you must implement suitable control measures to eliminate the risk of harm occurring or, where this isn’t possible, reduce the risk to as low a level as is “reasonably practicable”.

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