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Risk Assessments

A risk assessment is the process of identifying hazards and assessing the potential harm that may occur, whilst considering what actions are required to eliminate or reduce the risks identified. It is a legal requirement that hazards identified and any related control measures are documented and reviewed regularly. Risk assessments are a key part in any robust health and safety management system.

The University Health and Safety policy sets out the responsibilities in relation to risk assessments. Risk Assessments must be completed by staff that are familiar with the work area or activity that is to be assessed, ensuring that the relevant hazards are identified.

Useful Risk Assessment Templates

It is acknowledged that there are common hazards that will occur in similar environments across the University, therefore, draft templates for common tasks or environments have been drafted for staff to adapt and use in their own area:

Office Risk Assessment Template

Classroom/Teaching Risk Assessment Template

Risk Assessment Template

Driving Risk Assessment Template

Fieldwork Travel Plan and Risk Assessment

Risk Matrix

Risk Assessment Guidance Notes

Completing a Risk Assessment

As part of actively managing health and safety across the University, there should a consideration what could cause harm to staff, students and visitors to the University, this process is known as a risk assessment. Risk assessment should not involve huge amounts of paperwork, it is designed to identify sensible measures to control the risks present in your work area.

There is no need to be a health and safety expert to complete a risk assessment but you should be familiar with the work activity or location that is being assessed. To commence the risk assessment process you need to:

Identify the Hazards

A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm.

A good starting point is to walk around the work area and think about any significant hazards. What is it about the work activity, process or substances used that could injure staff, students or visitors or cause harm to their health?

Remember to also check manufacturers guidance for any equipment that's being used, data sheets or container labelling for any chemicals or substances.

Look back at accident records, is there a particular type of accident common to the work area that's being examined?

Consider any non-routine changes and how this may affect the work environment, e.g. during cleaning, maintenance or in an emergency scenario.

Also consider any longer term effects that the work environment may have. This is especially relevant when assessing the risk of a work area to staff, is the work environment excessively noisy, dusty or does it involve regular exposure to harmful substances?

Some of the common workplace hazards may include:

  • Slips, trips and falls / Poor housekeeping
  • Fall of objects
  • Manual Handling
  • Display screen equipment
  • Layout, storage and obstructions
  • Electrical equipment
  • Use of portable tools or equipment
  • Noise or vibration
  • Fire hazards or flammable materials
  • Vehicles/ Driving at work
  • Outdoor work
  • Off site / Fieldwork
  • Hazardous fumes, chemicals and dust
  • Working with lasers/ radiation sources
  • Hazardous biological agents
  • Confined spaces
  • Condition of buildings
  • Food preparation
  • Occupational stress
  • Violence to staff/ students
  • Working with animals
  • Lone working
  • Lifting equipment

For some hazards such as lone working, manual handling, working with hazardous substances and noise/ vibration, there is a recognised risk of harm and therefore specific requirements for the control measures that should be in place to mitigate these hazards. These requirements are a reflection of the accompanying regulatory advice and should always be followed to ensure there are suitable measures in place to protect staff and students. For further advice on how to deal with these type of hazards, please see the accompanying codes of practice.

Decide who might be harmed and how

Think about how employees might be harmed, considering all the different categories of people that could be on campus, this should include all staff, students , invited guests and visitors (including anyone with a disability). You should also think about whether the individual hazard might affect contractors working on campus and any more vulnerable persons, such as young people, pregnant women and the elderly. You don't need to list those identified by name.

Identifying exactly who may be harmed is the best way of deciding the most appropriate way to control the risk. It may be a good idea to ask other colleagues about what they think as they may notice things that are not obvious to you.

Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Having identified the hazards, you then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur i.e. the level of risk and what to do about it. Use the University's Risk Matrix to do this.

Remember risk is a part of everyday life and you are not expected to eliminate all risks. What you must do is make sure you know about the main risks and the things you need to do to manage them responsibly. Also your risk assessment should only include risks that you are reasonably expected to know about, you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

Look at the control measures that are already in place and consider

  • 'can I get rid of the hazard altogether?'
  • If not, how can I control the risk so harm is unlikely to occur?

Some practical steps to help you do this may include:

  • trying a less risky option
  • preventing or restricting access to the hazard
  • organising work activities to reduce exposure to the hazard
  • issuing protective equipment
  • providing welfare facilities i.e. First Aid facilities
  • involving or consulting relevant staff to discuss suitable options or to provide feedback.

Implementing new control measures doesn't need to cost a lot and often the simplest solutions can be effective. It is important that the staff in your work area or department are involved in this process so they can be aware of the control measures and how they should be applied in practice.

If a number of work areas or activities present the same hazards and risks a model or template risk assessed can be used.

Record your significant findings

Make a record of your findings - all the relevant hazards (in order of significance), how people may be harmed by them, what is or should be in place to control the risks. The document produced should be simple to understand and focussed on the control measures.

An easy way to do this is is to use the standardised University template that can be used for all risk assessments. There are also more specific templates that are designed to be used for overseas travel and student placements.

Review your risk assessment and update as necessary

Few work areas or activities stay the same. Changes to equipment, procedures or substances can alter the level of risk or create new hazards, it is recommended that you review what you are doing on a regular basis and check;

  • Have there been any significant changes?
  • Are there further improvements that still need to be made? This may be indicated by accidents or near misses.
  • Have colleagues spotted any problems?
  • Have there been any major accidents or incidents?

Make sure you review and update your risk assessment regularly.