Simple Risk Assessments as a Small Business

Health and Safety is everyone’s Responsibility

A health and safety risk assessment plays an important part in protecting workers and businesses, and in some cases, it is a legal requirement. The process helps to identify risks in the workplace, that have the potential to cause real harm. In most cases, straightforward precautions can be put into place to control risks, but you must evaluate each risk individually before deciding on how to minimise the threat.

Our handy guide explains who needs a risk assessment, and how to carry one out effectively.

Do I need to carry out a risk assessment?

If you’re a sole trader or self-employed then the health and safety law doesn’t apply to you. However, you must be sure that your daily work activities do not pose any health threat to your workers or members of the public.

For small businesses, who have less than 5 employees, you are not legally obliged to actually have a written risk assessment policy.

Although a formal risk assessment policy isn’t required, you will still need to carry out a health and safety risk assessment. This means that you must consider how your work activities may cause harm to members of the public and decide if you need to take action to prevent them.

A risk assessment isn’t just something that you can do once and forget about. In fact, a small businesses risk assessment should be regularly reviewed and updated in line with new activities, new equipment and new procedures.

How to carry out a risk assessment

Carrying out a risk assessment for your small business includes identifying hazards, evaluating the risk and putting measures in place to protect yourself, your staff and the public.

  • Identifying the hazards

Your first step is to identify any potential hazards in your workplace.

As you assess your place of work, you should consider anything that may cause harm or injury to your employees.

Although your main focus will be on accidents at work, you also need to think about any long-term damage that your workplace could potentially cause. For example, high levels of noise and extreme lighting may cause work related problems further down the line.

If you’re in the construction industry, you’re most probably working with lots of heavy machinery and dangerous equipment. A good tip is to read through your manufacturers’ instructions to help identify potential hazards.

  • Who is at risk?

Once you have identified a list of potential hazards, you now need to decide who is at risk.

As well as your employees, you also need to think about on-site visitors, members of the public or any contractors that you have.

  • Decide on precautions for the risks

You now need to carefully evaluate the level of risk each hazard poses and think of precautionary measures to reduce this threat.

Although it’s virtually impossible to completely get rid of each risk, the law does states that businesses should do what they reasonably can to manage it responsibly.

Look at each of your risks and work out what measures you can put in place to minimise the threat. Some solutions could include providing personal protective equipment, cutting off access to dangerous areas and having adequate washing facilities in the workplace.

How to write a risk assessment

Now that you have carried out your risk assessment, the next step is to document your findings.

Remember that this is only compulsory if you have 5 or more employees, however smaller businesses may also find it useful to note down their assessments.

Do not just copy an example and put your company name to it as that would not satisfy the law and would not protect your employees. You must think about the specific hazards and controls your business needs.

The written risk assessment should comprise of your main findings, and how you plan to deal with them. It should essentially explain to your staff how to manage risks within the workplace, and what to look out for.

It’s a good idea to put your risk assessment in order of importance. So always start with the most serious hazard and work your way down.  

If this is your first time conducting a risk assessment, then don’t panic. There are hundreds of free resources online that include a health and safety risk assessment template.

Even if you have the most detailed risk assessment policy, things can still go wrong. We thought we would also mention the importance of having business insurance to cover your business should any unfortunate accidents occur whilst on site.

Most employees are legally required to have employer’s liability insurance which can greatly benefit your business should you have to deal with any accidents at work. Public liability insurance the other hand covers your business, where appropriate, for instances when a member of the public is injured because of your work.

Although it may seem daunting at first, complying with health and safety policies are pretty straight forward and there are many resources available online to help.


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