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When and why do I need to do a risk assessment?

 25/11/2015    Last Modified: 04/02/2016

Risk Assessment

Legal Requirements

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR or ‘the Management Regs’) Regulation 3 requires every employer to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees whilst at work; and the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of that work. Where employers have 5 or more employees the assessment process must be recorded in writing, but it is considered good practice to document all risk assessments.

What does it mean?

In order to comply with the above the following principles of prevention should be applied (Regulation 4):

  • avoid risks where possible,
  • any risks which cannot be avoided should be evaluated and combated at source,
  • the workplace should be adapted to the individual, especially the design of workplaces, the choice of work equipment and the choice of working and production methods,
  • adapt to technical progress,
  • replace the dangerous by the non-dangerous or the less dangerous,
  • develop a coherent overall prevention policy which covers technology, organisation of work and working conditions,
  • give collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures,
  • provide appropriate information and instructions to employees.

5 Steps to Risk Assessment usually follow a basic 5-step approach;

  • Step 1 – Identify the hazards
  • Step 2 – Decide who might be harmed and how
  • Step 3 – Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  • Step 4 – Record your findings and implement them
  • Step 5 – Review your assessment and update if necessary.

All steps may be informed by reference to relevant industry good practice guides such as Guide to Good Climbing PracticeA Guide to the Use of MEWPS in Arboriculture, AFAG/FISA leaflets etc.

Generic Risk Assessments

These can prevent unnecessary duplication where repetitive tasks are routinely carried out. For example every time a chainsaw is used in general day to day work the risks and exposure, along with the appropriate controls, will be similar.

Site Specific Assessments

These should refer to all relevant generic assessments (see above) as dictated by the site and proposed operation. Any specific risks that fall outside the scope of the generics should be assessed following the 5-step process. All relevant control measures should be clearly identified.


All operatives on site, and any visitors to site, should be briefed upon the findings of the assessment and any control measures required. All should sign to confirm their understanding of the risks and their individual roles in maintaining safety.

Monitoring and Review

All aspects should be regularly reviewed to ensure that generics still apply and are relevant, to identify requirements for new generics and to ensure good practice is updated. Site specific assessments must be reviewed for subsequent days on the same site or as the conditions or scope changes.

Further information:

regulations, health and safety, risk assessment