How to do a risk assessment

A workplace risk assessment is designed to help you to identify where there are risks and identify sensible measures to control them. This page sets out guidance on conducting risk assessments for your charity.

Safety tape.

Once you have identified a hazard, you can take measures to protect staff and visitors from the risk (Photo: Marco Verch via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Risk assessments are an important component of health and safety management. 

Workplace risk assessments should be undertaken in a systematic way, and on a regular basis.

Assessments should consider risks to your employees, volunteers, site visitors, contractors and and anyone else who might be affected by your charity's activities.

How to do a risk assessment

Understand the terminology:

  • Hazard  A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm. This could include psychological factors as well as physical, chemical, biological or radio-chemical agents.

  • Risk The risk is the likelihood of a hazard causing harm.

  • Severity The severity refers to the extent of any harm caused.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the UK government agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health. The HSE publishes guidance on undertaking risk assessments and text below is a quick summary the HSE's advice.

If you are responsible for undertaking a risk assessment for your charity, please refer to the HSE guidance in full.

5 steps for a risk assessment

The HSE sets out these five steps

  1. Identify hazards
    The first step is to accurately identify the potential hazards in your workplace.
  2. Identify who might be harmed and how
    For each hazard you need to be clear about who might be harmed; it will help you identify the best way of controlling the risk. 
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
    Having identified the hazards, you then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur; ie the level of risk and what to do about it.
  4. Record your significant findings
    Make a record of your significant findings - the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what you have in place to control the risks. Any record produced should be simple and focused on the control measures you have put in place.
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary

The HSE has published a booklet, A brief guide to controlling risks, which can be downloaded for free from its website.

The HSE website also has example risk assessments for different types of workplaces, to show how to do them. 

For charity facilities managers the examples which are most relevant are:

Further guidance

The British Safety Council has also published clear information about risk assessments

Date published