OBUHSN-36 Issue 04 April 2009

Risk assessment


  1. This Health and Safety Notice must be read and understood by all employees of Oxford Brookes University. It should also be read and understood by all members of the student body, who are carrying out projects where there is a hazard. Where appropriate, it must also be brought to the attention of Contractors working at the University.
  2. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers must undertake a suitable and sufficientrisk assessment of:
    • the risks to the health and safety of employees to which they are exposed while at work;
    • the risks to the health and safety of persons not in the University's employment arising out of or connection with the undertaking.
  3. Risk Assessment is a key element in the process of successful health and safety management. It requires Line Managers to be proactive and actually identify risks and, more importantly, do something about them. It is a far more efficient and cost effective method of dealing with health and safety problems than merely responding to incidents as and when they occur. Risk Assessment can identify weakness and, when put into action, lead to a safer, healthier and more productive work force.


  1. Risk Assessments must be undertaken on a local basis by Deans of Faculties/Directors of Directorates or by their suitably trained and competent person(s). In more complex situations the advice and assistance of specialist competent persons may be needed see (Appendix 1). Deans of Faculties/Directors of Directorates must ensure that the significant findings of an assessment are recorded (copy to the Safety Officer). Any particular group at risk must also be identified. Examples of special groups at risk may be young persons, trainees, or employees with disabilities. There may be particular circumstances that places certain groups at greater risk, e.g. lone workers, pregnant women (including those who have recently given birth and are breast feeding) and children/young persons on work experience(OBUHSN-13 The Safety of Visitors to the University).
  2. Legislation exists for risk assessments to be carried out where employees are exposed to noise, (Noise at Work Regulations) or hazardous substances (COSHH). Similarly, requirements apply for all activities affected by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations and the Display Screen Equipment Regulations, both of which will require assessments to be carried out and recorded. There is no need to repeat risk assessments if valid assessments have been carried out, and appropriate action taken, under specific regulations.


  1. No Faculty/Directorate may carry on any work liable to expose staff, students or others to risks to their health unless a suitable andsufficient risk assessmentof the risks created by that work, and of the steps needed to comply with specific regulations have been carried out.
      • Assessors need to appreciate the difference between hazard and risk: Hazard is the potential to cause harm and is likely to be present in every work activity such as hazardous chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, activities likely to give high levels of stress etc; Risk is thelikelihoodof that potential being realised, and so the extent of the risk will be dependent on a variety of factors. There are five steps to Risk Assessment:
        • look for the hazards;
        • decide who might be harmed and how;
        • evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide
          • whether existing precautions are adequate or more
          • should be done;
        • record your findings;
        • review your assessment and revise if necessary.
      • The Risk Assessment process needs to be tackled in a systematic, logical manner using an appropriate proforma (for example, as Appendix 3), and by a competent person(s) who is familiar with the activity being assessed. Sections 11-20 gives guidance in the compilation of a risk assessment form.
  2. There is a need to determine the risk level achieved as a result of the assessment in order to determine whether any additional measures are necessary. This can be done by:
    • simple quantitative assessment techniques (multiplying the effects of a hazard by the likelihood of its occurrence); see Appendix 2

    If existing preventative measures do not reduce the risks to a low level, then consideration must be given to additional preventative measures.

  3. In deciding on preventative measures, the Deans of Faculties/Directors of Directorates must apply the following principles:
    • wherever possible avoid the risk altogether;
    • combat the risks at source, e.g. if the steps are slippery, rather than install an additional handrail, treat with a non-slip surface. If floors are slippery through spills, examine the cause of the spills rather than treat the floor;
    • whenever possible, adapt workto the individual;
    • have adequate procedural controls in place;
    • take advantage of technological and technical progress;
    • ensure that adequate information, instruction, training and supervision exists;
    • Review risk assessments annually and/or if work activity changes (copy to the Safety Officer).

Training and information

  1. Specific training will be provided for appointed staff. This will enable them to carry out effective risk assessments.
  2. Risk assessments will be made available to any members of staff, students or others who are entitled to see them. If further information is required reference can be made to the specialist competent persons(Appendix 1).

Guidance in the compilation of a risk assessment form

  1. Make use of the Risk Assessment Matrix, Appendix 3 to record the risk assessment for an activity under consideration.
  2. In the column headed Hazard, list the hazards that have been identified associated with the activity. For example, if the use of an electric lawn mower is being considered, hazards may include electric shock by cutting the cable, severe cuts to fingers by contact with moving blades, eye injury as a result of being struck by flying stones.
  3. In the column headed Task, note the activity. In the case of the lawn mower, these may include cutting the grass and cleaning the equipment.
  4. In the column headed Who at Risk, write the people or type of people who are at risk during each task or activity. In the case of the use of the lawn mower, this will be the person operating the lawn mower, but may also include bystanders. In other activities those at risk may be everyone in a building (if, for example, fire is being considered).
  5. In the column headed Current Controls, write the relevant safety measures that are currently in place for each task. In the case of the electric lawn mower, this may include the use of a residual current device (RCD) to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.
  6. In the columns headed Consequence and Likelihood, use the guidance given in Appendix 2 to give an assessment of a numerical rating for each task. For example, the consequence of electrical contact is very high, potentially fatal, has a rating of 5 on a scale of 1-5. However, with a RCD fitted, the likelihood is improbable, a rating of 1 on a scale of 1-5.
  7. The product of the number in the cells of the Consequence and Likelihood columns (see Appendix 2) should be written into the column headed Rating. A rating in the range 15-25 indicates the current control measures are inadequate, the task must not be carried until appropriate measures are put in place in order to reduce the risk of harm. Ratings in the range 8-12 indicate that there is a need to improve the control measure. ratings in the range 1-6 indicate the measures which are currently in place are sufficient to control the risk, no further action, other than ensuring the measures are maintained, is required.
  8. Where, in section 17 above, a need to further counter measures has been identified, these will be listed in the column headed Action Required. It is imperative that these actions are genuinely put in place, and not merely written as a proposal.
  9. In the columns headed New Consequence and New Likelihood, use the guidance given in Appendix 2 to give an assessment of a numerical rating for each task based on the new countermeasures, as stated in Actions Required, being in place.
  10. The product of the number in the cells of the New Consequence and New Likelihood columns (see Appendix 2) should be written into the column headed New Rating. The objective is that the selected countermeasures will give rise to a new rating in the range 1-6, which is considered to be level at which no further action is required. It is imperative that the stated actions are genuinely put in place, and not mealy written as a proposal. Appropriate supervision needs to be in place to ensure this is so.

Further Guidance

  1. The Health and Safety Executive provide a range of very useful guidance in the methods of conducting risk assessments, which may be found online at http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/fivesteps.htm.  Examples of risk assessments for a variety of workplaces and activities can be found on line at http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/index.htm  These are not intended to be generic risk assessments. They are intended to give examples of the types of hazards which are to be considered and the countermeasures which may need to be put in place to minimise the risks.


  1. Specialist competent persons
  2. Risk assessment ratings
  3. Risk assessment matrix