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Assessing Risk

What is risk assessment?

Risk assessment is the process of assessing an activity or area in order to identify the hazards involved and the degree of risk arising from those hazards. For each and every hazard the question to be asked is:

‘Is the level of risk, taking into account the existing control measures or precautions, acceptable?’

If the answer is NO, then more controls will be required – see Risk Controls page. If the answer is YES, then those controls need to be implemented and monitored to ensure they remain in place and are working – see Performance Monitoring page.

The risk assessment process

The risk assessment process involves the following 5 steps:

  1. identify the hazards - those within Science and Medicine departments should use the Hazard Grid
  2. determine the people who might be affected* - considering groups that could be at risk  
  3. assess the risks
  4. decide whether further controls or precautions are needed
  5. ensure that control measures are used and maintained.

Risk Assessments must be reviewed whenever anything is to be changed, if there has been an accident or near-miss or, if there have been no problems or changes, on a regular basis as determined by the level of risk.

Those carrying out risk assessments should check relevant policy, arrangements & guidance for the activities that they are assessing.

*Those carrying out risk assessments must consult with staff involved in the activities and encourage their participation in the process. Trades Union representatives must be involved in the process in particular.

Keeping records

Risks assessments and controls should be documented, where the risk is anything other than trivial. It sometimes helps to record such assessments in a simple tabular format. A Risk Assessment Form can be used to assist this process.

In order to ensure precautions or control measures are being followed it is necessary to make sure that they are included in any information, instruction and training given to staff, students or contractors. Documenting risk assessments and control measures will help in this regard.

Specific risk assessments

Specific risk assessment methodologies are required in certain circumstances such as manual handling, use of machinery, ionising radiation and radioactive substance, lasers, biological safety, amongst others. Please see the relevant topic guidance page for further information on these specific risk assessments.

When working away from campus you are likely to need to carry out a Fieldwork risk assessment, and, if you are working at a 'host employer's' premises (such as another university, an industrial partner, a research facility or at a school), there will be a need for the sharing of risk information by that 'host employer'. There is a legal requirement for such hosts to share risk assessment information with visitors to their premises, so it is reasonable to ask them about any risks presented by their activities (such as research practices or maintenance activities) or by their buildings and infrastructure (such as fire safety information, asbestos information and details of any locations of RAAC*).

Specialised risk assessments

In some circumstances more detailed risk assessments, taking account of statutory regulations, ACoPs and HSE guidance, might be required and such ‘specialised’ risk assessments will need to be carried with input from the Health and Safety Team.

Risk Assessment Training

A risk assessment moodle training packageLink opens in a new window has been developed to help you understand how to determine hazards and then to assess the associated risks. This training covers the University's approach to risk assessment and is for all staff who are required to carry out risk assessments at the University, regardless of what other health and safety training they may have otherwise received.

If you require access or any further information discuss with your Departmental Contact or get in touch with the Health & Safety team by using the Assure system and filling in an 'Ask for Advice' formLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window.

*Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete