Evaluate the risk
When all potential workplace hazards have been identified, the next step is to evaluate the risk of these hazards actually causing harm.
To do this, it is necessary to consider the points listed below:
- The likelihood that harm will occur
- The potential severity of the harm
- How many and how often people will be exposed to the hazard
- The existing control measures in place
It is not compulsory to use a risk matrix when undertaking a risk assessment. It is acceptable to use personal judgement to decide which hazards are significant and when additional controls may be required.
It is important that those carrying out the risk assessment fully understand the risks associated with the activities or the use of the buildings being assessed. Individual experiences, knowledge, attitudes and competence can result in hazards being allocated higher or lower risk scores than are suitable for the situation.
When risk scoring, it is also important to focus on the hazards and risk and not on the actual final risk score. Remember, risk scoring is a useful tool to help you evaluate risk; it is not a tool used to control hazards.
|Risk (risk score)
|Action and timescale
|No action required
|No additional controls required. Monitoring required to ensure controls are maintained
|Risk should be reduced as far as reasonably practicable within a suitable timescale
|The risk must be considerably reduced and ongoing activities stopped
|Prohibited activity-work must not start or continue until the risk has been removed or substantially reduced
Worker example - Risk scoring
- A member of your congregation is putting up some shelving in the boiler room when he accidentally drills through a piece of board labelled Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB). Before this work was started, a risk assessment should have been carried out as the congregational asbestos risk management register indicated that AIB was present in the boiler room. The risk score for this activity is therefore:
Likelihood (Likely) X Severity (Extremely Harmful)
3 x 3 = 9 This is an intolerable risk
If a suitable risk assessment was carried out before the task was started, it would have been apparent that this represented an intolerable risk and the activity should not have started until the risk (asbestos) was removed.
- You keep the outside of your church building tidy and, before each worship, the paths are checked to ensure safe access to the building. In the winter, all paths are treated with salt and church elders are on hand to help elderly members of the congregation to and from the church. The risk score for this activity is therefore:
Likelihood (Unlikely) X Severity (Slightly Harmful)
2X1 = 2 This is a tolerable risk
The congregation have reasonable and practical control measures in place to make sure that members of the congregation are not at risk of slips, trips and falls when entering or leaving the church.
- Your halls are let to a youth group, which allows children aged between 8 and 16 years old to meet and play computer games twice a week. All of the electrical equipment, computers, and monitors are owned by the youth group. You have spoken to the youth group leader and observed what takes place when members of the youth group occupy the halls. You notice that there are metres of cables lying across different areas of the halls, which people walk past when rotating around the game stations. You are concerned about tripping hazards. The risk score for this activity is therefore:
Electrical Safety: Likelihood (Likely) X Severity (Slightly Harmful)
3 X 2 = 6 This is a substantial risk
Appropriate action must immediately be taken to reduce the risk of tripping so far as is reasonably practicable. This might include the use of cable covers or cable mats to sit over the cables when in use.
Hierarchy of controls
Once you have scored the risk, you now need to make a suitable and informed choice about the control methods that you are going to adopt based on the risk score. You must consider the likelihood and severity of the hazard identified. This is known as the hierarchy of controls.
Removing the hazard is always the preferred method of control. For example, removing stored items from the walkways will fully eliminate any hazard presented by the stored items.
Reduce level of risk by substituting the hazard with a less hazardous alternative. For example, replace a cleaning chemical which is an irritant with a non-irritant variety.
Engineered controls are innovative controls, such as cut off valves, isolation switches, automated doorways, spring-loaded doors, safety guards on tools and equipment or anything else that uses engineering to isolate people from the hazard identified. You can introduce basic engineering controls. For example, ensure that circuit breakers are used on electrical items or ensure that there are door closer springs attached to fire doors. Engineering controls needn't be complex; they can be simple additions like locks or coded door entry to hazardous areas etc.
Policies and procedures implemented to allow people to work safely – for example, a lone working policy, food safety management system, or fire and emergency evacuation plans. Training and supervision is also an important administrative control.
Personal protective clothes and equipment
Only after all of the above measures have been considered and tried should PPE be considered. PPE may also be used in conjunction with any of the control measures as an additional precaution if elimination is not possible.