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Risk assessment is a term used to describe the overall process or method where you:

  • Identify hazards and risk factors that have the potential to cause harm (hazard identification).

  • Analyse and evaluate the risk associated with that hazard.

  • Determine appropriate ways to eliminate the hazard or control the risk when the hazard cannot be eliminated.


Risk assessments are very important as they form an integral part of an occupational health and safety management plan.

It helps to:

  • Identify who may be at risk e.g., employees, cleaners, visitors, contractors, the public, etc.

  • Prevent injuries or illnesses, especially when done at the design or planning stage.

  • Create awareness of hazards and risk.

  • Determine whether a control program is required for a particular hazard.

  • Determine if existing control measures are adequate or if more should be done.

  • Prioritize hazards and control measures.

  • Meet legal requirements where applicable.


To do a Risk Assessment you need to a have a valid Hazard Identification Risk Assessment certificate.

A risk assessment is a thorough look at your workplace to identify those things, situations, processes, etc. that may cause harm, particularly to people. After identification is made, you analyse and evaluate how likely and severe the risk is. When this determination is made, you can next, decide what measures should be in place to effectively eliminate or control the harm from happening.

Occupational health and safety - Hazard identification and elimination and risk assessment and control use the following terms:

Risk assessment: the overall process of hazard identification, risk analysis, and risk evaluation.

Hazard identification: the process of finding, listing, and characterizing hazards.

Risk analysis: a process for comprehending the nature of hazards and determining the level of risk.


  • Risk analysis provides a basis for risk evaluation and decisions about risk control.

  • Information can include current and historical data, theoretical analysis, informed opinions, and the concerns of stakeholders.

  • Risk analysis includes risk estimation.

Risk evaluation: the process of comparing an estimated risk against given risk criteria to determine the significance of the risk.

Risk control: actions implementing risk evaluation decisions.

Note: Risk control can involve monitoring, re-evaluation, and compliance with decisions.


Overall, the goal is to find and record possible hazards that may be present in your workplace. It may help to work as a team and include both people familiar with the work area, as well as people who are not - this way you have both the experienced and fresh eye to conduct the inspection. In either case, the person or team should be competent to carry out the assessment and have good knowledge about the hazard being assessed, any situations that might likely occur, and protective measures appropriate to that hazard or risk.

To be sure that all hazards are found:

  • Look at all aspects of the work.

  • Include non-routine activities such as maintenance, repair, or cleaning.

  • Look at accident / incident / near-miss records.

  • Include people who work off site either at home, on other job sites, drivers, teleworkers, with clients, etc.

  • Look at the way the work is organized or done (include experience of people doing the work, systems being used, etc).

  • Look at foreseeable unusual conditions (for example: possible impact on hazard control procedures that may be unavailable in an emergency, power outage, etc.).

  • Determine whether a product, machine or equipment can be intentionally or unintentionally changed (e.g., a safety guard that could be removed).

  • Review all the phases of the lifecycle.

  • Examine risks to visitors or the public.

Article By:

William van Greunen: OHS Consultant - Compliance Hub

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