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21st December 2015

How To Complete A Risk Assessment

Introduction: The HSE’s leaflet ‘five steps to risk assessment’ has been used in the workplace for over a decade. In August 2014 the HSE published version four; with a new title- risk assessments: a brief guide to controlling risks in the workplace. The new version is much shorter and the reduction is in part due to the removal of the template risk assessment form and frequently asked questions; these can now be found on the HSE’s website. But that’s not the only change.


What’s gone? Also missing is a large section of the preamble about why you should complete risk assessments, what you’re aiming to achieve and who is competent to do them. The HSE now seems to assume that anyone can carry out a risk assessment; the new document spends no time whatsoever on the question of competency.


What about the five steps?

The five steps were:

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

Although they’re no longer spelled out, the leaflet is divided into five subjects equating to the same points. Its example risk assessments and web based guidance also follow the same headings but without the use of the term ‘’step’’.


Legal minimum: The guidance makes it clear that you don’t need to do more than is legally required. The text now states twice in bold: ‘’if you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down’’. It also says ‘’you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks’’ and the advice to formally review your documents once per year has disappeared without trace.

Tip- Even though the rigid annual review advice has been removed, its good practice to set a date for periodic review of your risk assessments, just to check that they’re still valid and that any actions arising have been implemented. You must also complete the process when significant changes are made to your business activities.


Simplification:One major change is a new section covering the use of generic risk assessments. Although these have been used by businesses for years, the HSE has previously given the impression that it didn’t favour this type of shortcut. Now it states ‘’if you control a number of similar workplaces containing similar workplaces containing similar activities, you can produce model risk assessments reflecting the common hazards and risks associated with these activities.

Tip- To save on lighthouse online portal, use generic risk assessments whenever you can. As the HSE’s guidance points out, however, you must make sure that they’re amended and added to as needed to reflect any site specific concerns.

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