Published 29 Aug 2023
What is a Workplace Risk Assessment?
A workplace risk assessment is an investigation of the different hazards that are present in a workplace and the risks they pose to the health and safety of the people working there. Workplace risk assessments also help employers develop effective risk control measures that eliminate or mitigate hazards.
In this article
- Is It a Regulatory Standard?
- Why Perform the Assessment?
- 5 Steps to Assess the Risk
- Problems with Using Paper
- A Powerful Digital Tool
- Featured Workplace Risk Assessment Templates
Is It a Regulatory Standard?
In the UK, workplace risk assessments are required under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR). Based on guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Regulation 3 of MHSWR, employers in the UK have to do the following:
- Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
- Review the workplace risk assessment when there is reason to suspect that it has become obsolete or there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates
- Make changes required by the result of such review
Additionally, if employers in the UK have 5 or more employees, they must record the following:
- Significant findings of the workplace risk assessment
- Any group of employees identified as being especially at risk
In the US, workplace risk assessments, more commonly known as hazard assessments, are required under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 29, Part 1910, Subpart I, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 132.
Similarly in Canada, workplace risk assessments are also known as hazard assessments and are required under Part XIX of Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
In Australia, while hazard or risk assessments aren’t specifically required, Part 2 of the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 states that it is the duty of employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
Why Perform the Assessment?
Whether it’s an office setting, work-from-home setup, or a high-risk environment, performing a workplace risk assessment is key to maintaining the health and safety of employees. As a company’s biggest asset, employees are vital to the success and stability of the business.
Especially in these rapidly changing times, giving adequate care and attention to employees through regular workplace risk assessments helps ensure that companies adapt and thrive through change.
|Workplace Risk Assessment is not Performed||Workplace Risk Assessment is Performed|
Lack of appropriate risk control measures in place because workplace hazards and risks are not realized
Effective risk control measures are developed and implemented against known hazards and risks
Workplace hazards and risks continue to negatively affect employees by endangering their health and safety
Workplace hazards and risks no longer negatively affect employees due to the risk control measures put in place
Lower employee productivity and/or quality of work due to the negative effects of hazards and risks
The productivity of employees improves as a result and so does the quality of their work
The business suffers from operational inefficiencies and becomes more vulnerable to external factors
The business operates more efficiently and is able to withstand external factors better than its competitors
The business is unable to recover from a major event and closes down
Over time, the business becomes a leader in its industry due to its good reputation and years of experience
Beyond continued business operations, unhindered by incidents caused by hazards, another important reason to perform a workplace risk assessment is that it’s a legal requirement in most countries and regions, such as the ones mentioned earlier.
5 Steps to Assess the Risk
Though each employer may have unique priorities and goals for their workplace risk assessment, it may be helpful for those in need of a general outline to read through the following steps before performing a workplace risk assessment:
Decide on the Focus of the Workplace Risk Assessment
This step is crucial in providing both direction and clarity. Start by defining the goal of the workplace risk assessment. Use the following questions as a guide:
Why is this workplace risk assessment needed? (aside from being legally required)
How could this workplace risk assessment help the business and its employees?
What is the intended result, effect, or output of the workplace risk assessment?
Next, establish the scope of the workplace risk assessment. It is recommended to not skip this as doing so may lead to the workplace risk assessment taking on more than what is necessary.
Establishing the scope is also relatively easy since it primarily entails listing down what’s included and what’s not included in the workplace risk assessment.
After establishing the scope, choose who will be involved in the workplace risk assessment and their level of responsibility/participation. Note the key people chosen. Lastly, finalize details such as when and where (specific room, site, facility, building, or area) the workplace risk assessment will be performed.
There are many different types of hazards, with some more common in certain settings. For example, chemical hazards are usually only found in laboratories or processing plants while psychosocial hazards such as stress, harassment, or violence are frequently present and/or identified in office settings.
High-risk environments also have their own set of industry-specific hazards. For example, common hazards in the construction industry are the lack of personal fall arrest systems and the improper use of ladders or scaffolds.
In work-from-home setups, ergonomic hazards, especially those that involve Display Screen Equipment (DSE) such as desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, are known to cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Once all hazards in the workplace have been identified, think of the risk/s that each hazard can contribute to or cause. Any form of danger or harm that could possibly occur can be considered a risk. Ensure that all risks have been recorded before proceeding with the next step.
There are a number of ways for evaluating risks. The most popular method is to estimate the likelihood of a risk occurring and the severity of consequences if the risk were to occur. After determining the likelihood and consequences, use a risk matrix like the one below to identify its risk level.
Develop Risk Control Measures
For high-level risks, if the hazards relating to those risks cannot be eliminated, develop risk control measures. Risk control measures can simply target those high-level risks or be made more elaborate by taking into consideration the nature of the work or primary function of the workplace as well as organizational priorities, structure, workflows, and goals.
The HSE recommends the following risk control measures:
- redesigning the job or organizing the work to reduce exposure to hazards
- providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring employees wear it
Regularly Review the Workplace Risk Assessment
It’s important to remember that a workplace risk assessment shouldn’t just be performed once and then forgotten or not reviewed. As time goes on and circumstances change, it’s possible for the workplace risk assessment to become obsolete.
Aside from being good practice, regularly reviewing the workplace risk assessment helps uncover the different issues experienced by employees and which affect their work. By proactively addressing these issues, employers prevent more serious problems from occurring.
Problems with Using Paper
Though a workplace risk assessment can help improve the productivity and efficiency of a workplace, the traditional way of using pen and paper to perform a workplace risk assessment can become a hindrance to fully taking advantage of its benefits.
When using paper forms, adding photos of hazards to the workplace risk assessment is cumbersome, as it requires printing the photos and then attaching them one by one to the relevant pages. Another disadvantage of using paper is that forms are easily lost or misplaced. This can prevent you from reviewing your workplace risk assessment when it’s most needed.
A Powerful Digital Tool
What is SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor)?
Since using pen and paper for workplace risk assessment is highly inefficient, an alternative would be to use a digital template. SafetyCulture is an easy-to-use safety platform that provides free digital workplace risk assessment templates. You can download, use, and customize SafetyCulture workplace risk assessment templates for free. Using SafetyCulture, you can do the following:
- Capture and annotate photos of hazards on your mobile device
- Identify risk levels at a glance by using the risk matrix
found in our workplace risk assessment templates
- Generate a workplace risk assessment template PDF report as soon as you’re done
To get started, download for free any of our featured workplace risk assessment templates. Preview a workplace risk assessment sample report here.
Featured Workplace Risk Assessment Templates
Based on HSE guidance for assessing the risks of work-related violence, this workplace violence risk assessment template is especially crucial for employers in the hospitality and retail industries. With this workplace violence risk assessment template, employers can do the following:
- List workplace violence hazards observed or experienced as well as those that are suspected to be happening in the workplace
- Specify if known risk factors (aspects of the work that make violence more likely) are present or absent in the workplace
- Identify the risk levels of workplace violence risk factors using the risk matrix provided
- Develop effective risk control measures while taking into consideration the comments, opinions, and ideas of the staff
- Create an action that reminds them to review the workplace violence risk assessment one year from the time it was completed
Based on the HSE workplace transport safety checklist, this workplace transport risk assessment template can be used by employers/owners of businesses that use vehicles for work to do the following:
- Decide on the focus of the workplace transport risk assessment
- Identify and take photos of common workplace transport hazards
- Define the likelihood and consequences of workplace transport risks
- Evaluate workplace transport risks by using the risk matrix provided
- Record the significant findings of the workplace transport risk assessment
Use this workplace stress risk assessment template to determine whether the cause of stress is because of work demands, management and control, support, relationships, role and change. This record can be used as basis for leaders to reflect what actions plans they need to take to lessen work stress.
Workplace ergonomic risk assessment template helps evaluate employees’ working routine. Use this checklist on your mobile with SafetyCulture to gauge risk factors that affect the performance of each employee and provide an overall assessment of the risk level.
This workplace risk assessment template for offices can be used to identify general at-risk activities in your office environment and help formulate an implementation plan. Use the risk matrix provided to identify the risk rating of the hazard and activities to help you prioritize control measures. Capture photos of the hazards and document any risks that are able to be immediately controlled. This risk assessment form can be modified to suit your office workplace.
This workplace risk assessment template for work-from-home setups is built according to the State Government of Victoria, Australia, and includes evaluation items for the designated work area, work surface, physical demands of tasks, work practices, emergency procedures, and more. Failed items should be corrected before employees can work from home.
Use this workplace risk assessment template for construction to identify common construction hazards, assess the risk severity and rating and propose control measures. Common hazards included in this template include working at heights, confined spaces, electricity, asbestos, manual handling, noise, lone worker and more. Take photos of risks and create corrective actions to mitigate risks immediately. You may modify this template to suit your construction worksite activities.