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Identifying People at Risk

Risk assessment should take into account and inform any person who may be affected by the activities being assessed and should also take account of any specific risks to those groups defined below. This list is not exhaustive, and assessment must identify appropriate control measures to reduce risk to an acceptable level.


Staff and/or students (see also 'vulnerable groups')

Whether paid or unpaid, a visiting academic, or whether temporary, fixed term or permanent, an apprentice or on work experience, this group applies to all staff or students engaged in a work activity.


  • Those new to a work activity
  • Infrequently carried out operations
  • Normal and abnormal situations (routine and emergency situations)
  • Levels of instruction, information, training and supervision
  • Establishing what makes someone 'competent' to carry out the task
  • Attitude and physical ability
  • Language differences that could affect a persons understanding
  • Those who may be in the vicinity but not engaged in the work (bystanders). Such bystanders may not fully appreciate the work unless informed. Consider how you will manage this situation (see also 'vulnerable groups' below)
  • Others who may be affected by the work activity when the space is both occupied and empty, such as cleaning staff, security staff, porters, IT services staff, maintenance or emergency services
Members of the public and/or visitors

This group would include attendees of an organised event e.g. those coming to an open day, those attending a conference or those engaging in an outreach project as well as persons who may be simply walking through campus (and just be in the vicinity), local residents, etc.


  • How others could be affected by your proposed work activity (either directly or indirectly)
  • Information and instruction relevant to this group
  • Segregation of work, including physical barriers and safety signage
  • Emergency arrangements

Contractors must be provided with relevant information relating to the work activities and environment that they are being asked to work in so that they can generate their own working procedures and risk assessments of their own work activity.

Contractors may well be unfamiliar with aspects of the work-place or activities going on in a space, for example;

  • Local induction (to include emergency procedures e.g. fire evacuation, first aid etc)
  • Layout and environment
  • Equipment and infrastructure
  • Activities and associated hazards connected with the space (including isolation points of equipment or services)
  • Controls required for working in the space (e.g. safety glasses, safety shoes, lab coat, etc)
Vulnerable Groups
New and expectant mothers

A care of duty is extended to the unborn child as well as risk to the mother herself.

Assessments must include the risk to any unborn child or child who is still breast-feeding.

Consideration must be given to:

  • Impaired mobility may well make the mother prone to slips, trips and falls, especially in the later stages of pregnancy
  • Impaired ability to undertake physical strenuous work
  • Increased likelihood of injury to the back
  • Entitlement to more ad-hoc rest breaks
  • Risk of early labour or miscarriage

See also Pregnancy & Maternity pagesLink opens in a new window

Young people under 18 years of age
  • Lack of experience / Immaturity
  • Inability to concentrate for long periods of time
  • Entitled to more frequent rest breaks

See also Children and Young Persons Risk Assessment for Labs and Workshops

People with disabilities
  • Mobility, hearing and visual impairment may well have an impact on the ability to evacuate unassisted
  • Potential difficulties in raising the alarm when assistance is required

As well as considering this vulnerable group in your risk assessment, see also the Fire SafetyLink opens in a new window and Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP)Link opens in a new window webpages


This group may be particularly vulnerable to opportunistic infections, in addition to normal infections that could affect everyone.

See the Biosafety webpagesLink opens in a new window for further guidance in this area.

Lone workers

A separate risk assessment is not normally required for lone working. Instead, consider this within your risk assessment for the activity and consider:

  • Whether the work activity is 'safe' to be conducted alone
  • Whether a 'buddy system' or other specified procedure needs to be in place and establish how the person will be monitored
  • Training requirements or level of competency to conduct the task on their own
  • Emergency procedures. Consider all 'what if?' scenarios to ensure sufficient controls are in place to permit the task to go ahead

For more information on lone working and access to a Standard Operating Procedure that can be adapted for use, see the Lone Working webpagesLink opens in a new window.

People returning to work
  • Consider the reason for the absence
  • The length of the absence

The person may need to return on lighter / different duties. Full details can be found on the HR website.