The Ultimate Risk Assessment Guide
Risk assessments are a systematic examination of the safety in your workplace. In this article you will
what a risk assessment is and the 5 steps to performing a risk assessment. Find out how to use a risk
assess consequence and likelihood. Understand how to implement control measures.
After feeling more confident about what a risk assessment is, you can download these free
digital risk assessment templates to see how you can improve your risk assessment inspection
15+ Free Digital Risk Assessment Templates
What is a Risk Assessment?
A risk assessment is a systematic examination of your workplace to
- Identify significant hazards
- Assess injury severity and likelihood
- Implement control measures to reduce workplace risks
Beyond complying with legislative requirements, the purpose of risk assessments are to improve the overall
health and safety of your workers.
Risk assessments are often confused with a Job
Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). The key difference between a risk assessment and
JSA is scope. Risk assessments assess safety hazards across the entire workplace and are oftentimes
with a risk matrix to prioritize hazards and controls. Whereas a JSA focuses on job-specific risks and are
typically performed for a single task, assessing each step of the job.
How to Perform a Risk Assessment?
Risk assessments should be carried out by competent persons who are experienced in assessing hazard injury
severity, likelihood and control measures. A new risk assessment should be carried out when there are new
machines, substances and procedures which could lead to new hazards. They should be reviewed regularly and
up to date.
Here are 5 steps to follow when performing a risk assessment in your workplace:
- Identify hazards: Survey the workplace and look at what could reasonably be expected
cause harm. Identify common workplace
Check manufacturers or suppliers instructions or data sheets for any obvious hazards. Review previous
accident and near miss reports.
- Decide who might be harmed and how: Identify which group and demographic of workers
be harmed. Ask workers if they can think of anyone else who could be harmed by the hazard.
- Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures: Look for existing controls in
Follow the hierarchy of controls in prioritizing implementation of controls.
- Record your findings and implement them: Use a risk assessment template to document
findings. Get started with iAuditor’s free risk
assessment templates that you can use on your mobile device while on-site. Share your report and
findings with key parties who can implement changes.
- Review your assessment and update if necessary: Follow up with your assessments to
if controls have been put in place or if any new hazards have resulted
How to use a Risk Matrix?
A risk matrix is often used during a risk assessment to measure the level of risk by considering the
consequence/ severity and likelihood of injury to a worker after being exposed to a hazard. The two
can then help determine the overall risk rating of the hazard. Two key questions to ask when using a risk
matrix should be:
- Consequences: How bad would the most severe injury be if exposed to the hazard?
- Likelihood: How likely is the person to be injured if exposed to the hazard?
How to Assess Consequences?
In assessing the consequences of a hazard, the first question should be asked “If a worker is exposed to
hazard, how bad would the most probable severe injury be?”. For this consideration we are presuming that a
hazard and injury is inevitable and we are only concerned with its severity.
It is common to group the injury severity and consequence into the following four categories:
- Fatality - leads to death
- Major or serious injury - serious damage to health which may be irreversible,
medical attention and ongoing treatment
- Minor injury - reversible health damage which may require medical attention but
ongoing treatment). This is less likely to involve significant time off work.
- Negligible injuries - first aid only with little or no lost time.
To illustrate how this can be used in the workplace we will use the example of a metal shearing task. A
involved could include a piece of metal flying out of the equipment while in use. In this example the
most severe injury would be “Major or Serious Injury” with the possibility of bruising, breakage, finger
How to Assess Likelihood?
In assessing the likelihood, the question should be asked “If the hazard occurs, how likely is it that the
worker will be injured?”. This should not be confused with how likely the hazard is to occur. It is common
group the likelihood of a hazard causing worker injury into the following four categories:
- Very likely - exposed to hazard continuously.
- Likely - exposed to hazard occasionally.
- Unlikely - could happen but only rarely.
- Highly unlikely - could happen, but probably never will.
In our metal shearing example the question should not be “How likely is the machine expected to fail?” but
instead “When the machine fails and causes metal to fly out, how likely is the worker expected to be
If in our example we observe a safe distance between the machine and worker and proper PPE being worn, we
rate it as “Unlikely” given our observations.
We recommend OSHA’s
great learning resources in understanding how to assess consequence and likelihood in your risk
How to Implement Control Measures?
After identifying and assigning a risk rating to a hazard, effective controls should be implemented to
workers. Working through a hierarchy of controls can be an effective method of choosing the right control
measure to reduce the risk.
OSHA recommends the following
accomplish hazard control
- Eliminate or control all serious hazards immediately.
- Use interim controls while you develop and implement longer-term solutions.
- Select controls according to a hierarchy that emphasizes engineering solutions (including elimination
substitution) first, followed by safe work practices, administrative controls, and finally personal
- Avoid selecting controls that may directly or indirectly introduce new hazards.
- Review and discuss control options with workers to ensure that controls are feasible and effective.
- Use a combination of control options when no single method fully protects workers.
Now You Know
Risk assessments can be seen as a regulatory paperwork burden, but understanding the reason and purpose of
risk assessment will help your team identify, prioritize and control hazards in your workplace.
Free Digital Risk Assessment Templates