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Health and Safety - Risk Assessment


Risk assessment is the systematic process of evaluating work activities and working areas to determine the potential hazards and risks that could arise from these, and their impact on people, property, the environment or the business.

The risk assessment process involves the following steps:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Identify the people affected
  3. Assess the risks
  4. Identify the controls required to ensure safety
  5. Measure performance to ensure controls are adequate

Those who bring or create risk in the department are responsible for managing it!

Approach to Risk Assessments within the Department of Physics

The department considers that three types of risk assessment are required to cover activities within Physics:

The department is now implementing the use of Evotix Assure which is an online compliance software. Evotix Assure is to be used for all space and equipment Risk Assessments. If you believe you need access to the system and have not already been contacted by the HSO please email Stephanie Brown (

1. Space Risk Assessment

Space Risk Assessments should now be completed in Evotix Assure.

A space risk assessment should identify hazards associated with simply accessing the space whilst others are conducting their research. The space risk assessment should highlight any training courses which must be completed before a person is granted access to the space - please consult the (Excel Spreadsheet) Training matrix spreadsheet for courses. Larger items of equipment that require an individual to be competent in its use should be covered by their own specific risk assessment (See point 2 Equipment Risk Assessment)

Other outcomes of a space risk assessment should be a set of lab rules to be followed (including any PPE required to enter the space) and the generation of a lab noticeboard which reflects those rules.

All spaces which appear on the Quemis Hazard Management System should have a corresponding space risk assessment.

2. Equipment risk assessment, Work Equipment Training & Safe Systems of Work (SSoW)

Equipment Risk Assessments should now be completed in Evotix Assure.

An equipment risk assessment must be completed for each major piece of equipment. The completed assessment should highlight any additional training courses required to use the equipment, beyond those already defined for accessing the space. This will almost certainly include requirements for competency signoff.

All people using equipment at work must be adequately trained to ensure health and safety in its use, supervision or management. Some work activities require detailed formal training but, for most everyday activities involving work equipment, adequate training can be delivered in-house using the manufacturer's instructions and the background knowledge / skills of more experienced workers and managers.

Your Risk Assessment may need to be supported by a Safe System of Work. Under Section 2(a) of The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 ( HSAW) employers must, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, provide and maintain systems of work that are practical, safe and without risks to health.

A safe system of work is a formal procedure which will allow a specific task (usually one with significant hazards) to be undertaken in a ‘safe’ and pre-defined way. SSoW is an umbrella phrase for describing methods of carrying out tasks in ways which minimise the risks associated with the tasks.

Examples of a formal safe system of work include standard operating procedure, method statement and permit to work. Depending on the outcome of your risk assessment you may need to use different safe systems of work.

Safe systems of work should be developed by a competent person, i.e. a person with sufficient training, experience or knowledge. The aim of these are to achieve consistency of performance and efficiency, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with work instructions to ensure the safety of staff and others.

A physical hard copy of the standard operating procedures and any approved user list should be kept with the equipment so that it is accessible to all users. An electronic copy should be stored on Evotix Assure with the equipment Risk Assessment.

Examples SOP and template for download

3. Project (activity/task) risk assessment

A risk assessment for a project should cover the specific matters related to how a space and equipment are being used. It will include consideration of the hazards associated with harmful substances and their handling, use of specific equipment which is not covered by the standard operating procedure. It will reference the risk assessments for any equipment being used and the spaces in which the work is being undertaken

Please see the University Health and Safety guidance for more information.

3.1 Risk assessment form for staff and PhD students

(Word Document) Risk assessment Form

An up to date copy of each project risk assessment (which may be in paper or electronic format) must be maintained within the research group. The project risk assessment should reference all space and equipment risk assessments which are of relevance to carrying out the project, rather than repeating what has already been documented. If you require additional assistance completing this form, please contact Stephanie Brown

3.2 Risk assessment forms for final year undergraduate project students

(Excel Spreadsheet) Project risk assessment form

(Excel Spreadsheet) Worked example of project risk assessment form

(Powerpoint Presentation) Risk assessment training delivered by Health and Safety Officer

Risk assessments for final year projects must be submitted via the appropriate module page on Moodle.

3.3 COSHH Assessments (Chemical Risk Assessment)

COSHH - Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002

If you purchases, work with and store chemicals in the Department you are required by law to adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health. This is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).

A substance hazardous to health is anything that is hazardous in the form in which it may occur in the work activity. It need not just be chemical compounds, it can include chemical mixtures, micro-organisms, natural materials such as flour, or processed materials such as wood dust, etc.

When using substances which are potentially hazardous to health, your risk assessment will require all of the substances involved in the process or research/teaching activity to be assessed, and for the appropriate controls to mitigate the risks to be put into place. This is known as a COSHH Assessment.

Which type of COSHH Assessment do you need to complete?

Whilst the hazard potential of the hazardous material may fall into the categories: 'Low', 'Medium' or 'High' as reflected in the Quemis Hazard Grid, the risk will very much depend on the materials hazardous properties, the form that the material is in, how it can enter the body, the way you are intending to handle or work with the material and the volumes involved at each stage.

The download links to the Standard and Advanced COSHH Assessment templates can be found on the H&S Webpages under University Links.

The Risk Assessment Guidance introduces you to the general principles that should be applied and which type of risk assessment form should be completed under different circumstances. The general principles are outlined below:

'Very low' hazard materials, even at high volumes – incorporate into your activity/task risk assessment.

If 'Low' hazard material, using low volumes – again, if the precautions are straightforward, incorporate these into your activity/task risk assessment.

Medium or even some High hazard materials, where you have regular use or which involves moderate volumes - Standard COSHH assessment form, although regular or routine tasks involving the materials may be subject to standard operating procedures (SOPs). You may need to use an Advanced COSHH assessment form for high hazard materials e.g. lead, HF, Nitric Acid, Arsenic, Chlorine, Bromine, precursor chemicals or where you are undertaking novel chemistry.

When the hazard is unknown or uncertain, or there is the potential for hazardous bi-products, or intermediary substances to be generated, then assume an Advanced COSHH assessment is required.

Very High involving higher toxicity/flammability and higher quantities of materials than those specified STOP, seek advice.

The download links to the Standard and Advanced COSHH Assessment templates can be found on the H&S Webpages under University Links.

COSHH Assessment and associated SDS's need to be readily available to all laboratory users and H&S for inspections/audits.

4. Emergency Response Plan

Unplanned or unexpected events require an immediate response to minimise adverse effect on the health and safety of workers and relevant interested parties such as students, contractors, visitors, neighbours and emergency services personnel.

The Department must ensure that it addresses all potential OH&S impacts and should not presume that the processes related to fire safety, or environmental emergencies, etc., are sufficient. The Department need identify potential emergency situations and plan its response in proportion to the risk.

Planning for emergencies and procedures applies to hazardous spaces identified on Quemis. Space Owners and PI's need to consider what chemicals, equipment and activities are taking place in their lab space, and plan for worse case scenario's e.g. power cuts, gas leaks, laser strikes, failure of equipment etc.

Emergency procedures need to be documented and readily available in lab spaces and stored on both Evotix Assure and Quemis.

Emergency procedure template

University Travel Risk Assessment information

When undertaking overseas travel as part of your role at Warwick, you should consider the risks involved. These will vary widely depending upon the country which you are planning to visit and the activities you are undertaking.

Please view the below link for more information, links to risk assessments the guidance.