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Risk Assessment

by | reviewed 09/08/2021
Risk Assessments are a systematic method for controlling risk. Risk Assessments identify and evaluate hazards and take measures to control risks arising from those hazards. stakeholdermap.com
Risk Assessment is a recognised and formal process for assessing and controlling risk. The ultimate goal is to prevent losses which are caused by exposure to risk (Cooke and Williams, p. 75).

What is a Hazard?

Hazards cause risks so Risk Assessment begins with the identification of hazards. BS4778 defines a hazard as:
'a situation that could occur that has the potential to cause human injury, damage to property, damage to the environment or economic loss'
for example a wet floor, an open manhole, or a pothole all have the potential to cause injury. It is worth noting that some broad definitions of risk define a risk as an 'uncertainty of outcome', in Risk Assessment a risk is managed to avoid undesirable consequences.

In the UK Risk Assessments are a statutory requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Risk Assessment process

risk assessment
The Risk Assessment process will vary between organizations, but it should start with identification of hazards, analysis of who and what might be harmed, evaluation of the risk, documentation of the risks, taking action and review.

Cooke and Williams provide a possible Risk Assessment process:

Risk assessment step

Example risk

1. Identify the hazard
Deep drainage excavation in bad ground
2. Identify who or what might be harmed
Pipelayers in trench
3. Assess the risks arising from the hazard - initial risk assessment
High risk of collapse
4. Determine the control measures required
Use steel trench drag box
5. Assess the remaining risks arising from the hazard
Risk of crushing from excavator bucket. Risk of falling debris.
6. Record the findings of the risk assessment
Complete risk assessment sheet.
Develop safety method statement from risk assessment.
Supervisor to give task talk.
Permit to work required.
Banksman work with excavator to reduce risk.
8. Review and revision
Review site activities and adjust risk assessment where needed.
Hold additional task talks if method statement changes.
Suggested Risk Assessment process Cooke and Williams, 2004 p76.

Two Risk Assessment Techniques

1. Severity x frequency x number people affected

Rodney Turner suggests a method for prioritising risk which assesses the loss severity of a risk with the frequency at which it could occur and the number of persons who could be affected.
Risk Assessment Technique

The result is the Risk Potential which can be used to prioritise risks and guide decisions on mitigating actions and contingency plans (Turner, 2000, p. 457).

2. The Risk Assessment Matrix

Cooke and Williams describe a simpler risk assessment calculation: Severity x Likelihood. Both severity and likelihood can be rated on a scale of 1 to 3 giving a priority.
Risk Assessment Matrix
Variations of this matrix are frequently used as a quick method of assessing risk. For example:

The Risk Assessment Register

As risks are identified they need to be on a risk register or Risk Log. There are many examples of Risk Registers offered by Standards like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or by project management methods. A typical register for a Risk Assessment might include:
  • Unique Identifier
  • Description of the risk
  • Risk Assessment (severity x likelihood)
  • Risk controls (measures to control the risk)
  • Residual risks
  • Contingency actions
  • Risk owner
Download a typical Risk Register used in Project Management. Download a Prince2 Risk Register.

20 Common Project Risks - example Risk Register

This overview of Risk Assessment draws on the construction industry and project management standards, there may well be specific standards and procedures for Risk Assessments in your industry along with statutory (legal) requirements.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Risk Assessment

In the UK the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides example risk assesments for various work place environments including retail, offices, factories and warehousing. Example Risk Assessments.

Risk Assessment contents

  • What are the hazards?
  • Who might be harmed and how?
  • What are you already doing?
  • What further action is necessary?
  • Action by whom?
  • Action by when?
  • Done
Risk Assessment Example

Risk Assessment - references

Brian Cooke & Peter Williams, 2004, Construction Planning, Programming and Control, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Health and Safety Executive, 2016. Risk management [online] Available at:
<https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/index.htm> [Accessed 19 March 2013]

Rodney Turner, 2000, Gower Handbook of Project Management, Fourth Edition, Aldershot: Gower. Latest edition

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