This guide walks you through the basics of a 5x5 risk matrix: its definition, importance, components, and usage.
Published 6 Jun 2023
A type of risk matrix that is visually represented as a table or a grid, a 5x5 risk matrix has 5 categories each for probability (along the X axis) and impact (along the Y axis), all following a scale of low to high. As a comprehensive tool used by organizations during the risk assessment stage of project planning, operations management, or job hazard analysis, a 5x5 risk matrix aims to identify the probability and impact levels of injury and risk exposure to a worker in relation to workplace hazards. Further, it can serve as a supplementary tool in evaluating the possible damage or disruption brought about by risks.
For most organizations, having a tool to visually represent a risk assessment is paramount to effective operations management. Aside from the purpose of objectively rating risks based on their probability of occurrence and impact levels, a 5×5 risk matrix helps provide an easy-to-follow guide for future risk rating processes whenever a new hazard is identified.
This tool allows Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) professionals conduct thorough risk assessments, having 5 rating levels for each component for a more accurate analysis. With the 5×5 risk matrix explained, compared to other versions like 3×3 and 4×4, the 5×5 version provides a more thorough way of rating risks using a 5-point scale.
Ultimately, the two main advantages of this using this tool are the following:
5×5 Risk Matrix Example
Color-coding is crucial for a 5×5 risk assessment matrix to represent the combination level of probability and impact of the identified risks. That said, high risks must be in red, moderate risks in yellow (amber), and low risks in green. Organizations, EHS professionals, and project managers can then use other closely-related colors, such as orange, light red, and light green, to differentiate the specific risk ratings.
A 5×5 risk matrix also aims to answer the question “What are the 5 risk rating levels in the risk assessment matrix?” A 5×5 risk matrix has two axes, or components to put it simply, that make up the whole table or grid: the Probability and the Impact. Under the two are 5 risk rating levels used to calculate risks.
Also called likelihood, the Probability (x-axis) pertains to the extent of how likely it is for the risk to occur. The 5 risk rating levels under this component are as follows:
Also called severity or consequences, the Impact (y-axis) aims to determine the level of effects that the hazard can cause to workplace health and safety.
While a 5×5 risk matrix can be tailored to the needs of an organization, the following represent the general terms used to describe the 5 levels to determine the risk’s impact:
Each risk box represents the rating of a risk that is calculated based on its particular levels of probability and impact. In most cases, the 5×5 risk matrix uses numeric values to better represent the risk ratings.
Probability x Impact = Risk Level
The first step is to assign a numeric value from 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest, for each of the categories under Probability and Impact. Then, use the formula of multiplying the value of the Probability to the value of Impact to determine the Risk Level.
To better understand how the various levels indicate the Probability and Impact, here’s a guide on the numeric values and their representation as a result of the analysis:
With these, you can improve your existing risk control measures as needed, and recommend further actions that your EHS and quality managers can reinforce toward a proactive safety culture.
To show you how easy it is to incorporate this problem-solving tool in your risk assessments, here is a complete and step-by-step guide on how to use a 5×5 risk matrix:
Specify the key details regarding the project or analysis that the risk matrix is gonna be used in. Establish the name of the project, who conducted the risk matrix analysis, and the date and location of the analysis. By documenting these important details, it’s easier to track and go back to for future reference.
As a visual-centric analysis tool, review the risk matrix table and familiarize yourself with what each number, color, and label represent. With this, it would be easier to perform and understand the result of the analysis.
Choose between rare, unlikely, moderate, likely, and almost certain to specify how likely or unlikely it is for the identified risk to happen. Take note of the corresponding number that this equates to–-we’d need that for later.
After deciding the probability of the risk happening, you may now establish the potential level of impact—if it does happen. The levels of risk severity in a 5×5 risk matrix are insignificant, minor, significant, major, and severe. Again, take note of its corresponding number because we’ll use it for the next step.
Since you already decided on the numeric value of risk probability and its severity, (if not yet, assign appropriately) all you have to do is multiply their corresponding numbers. Once you have the product or the answer to the equation, you will use this as a basis to determine the actual risk level. As mentioned in the previous section, the risk levels are acceptable, adequate, tolerable, and unacceptable.
Establish risk control measures by adding recommendations and other relevant actions. These actions can encompass immediate implementation or long-term strategies aimed at resolving the issue both in the short and long term.
Complete the risk matrix by providing relevant signatures of personnel and staff involved in the analysis.
See below for an image of a completed report of a risk matrix analysis:
5×5 Risk Matrix Sample Report | SafetyCulture
Here are some industry examples of when and how to use a 5×5 risk matrix.
ISO 45001:2018, an international standard covering best practices toward employee safety amidst workplace risks, is an example of where using a 5×5 risk matrix is greatly helpful. Since this standard aims to help reduce work-related risk for workers, the management can then use risk assessment tools such as a 5×5 risk matrix to aid in decision-making to mitigate or eliminate workplace hazards.
As part of an organization’s thorough quality risk management system, evaluating risks during the risk analysis stage is best done by using tools such as a 5×5 risk matrix. This can then result in a quantified expression of risk, having the output of the risk assessment as a numeric value or a qualitative description on the level of risk.
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A good and effective risk assessment training can help your organization achieve a culture of safety where everyone takes responsibility for their own well-being and that of their colleagues. Prioritizing safety through Training can create a safer and more productive workplace. This way, everyone can focus on doing their best work without worrying about potential workplace hazards.
Below, we’ve handpicked some risk assessment courses that are designed to be short and highly targeted, so everyone can learn new safety skills in just a few minutes each day.
Take the first step towards a safer workplace by exploring our courses below:
Quality managers, EHS professionals, and organization leaders must maximize technology to identify risks, list identified hazards, conduct assessments, and come up with strategies to promote continuous improvement.
Using a dynamic mobile app solution such as SafetyCulture is the best example of how teams can streamline risk assessments by doing the following:
Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.
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