How to do a risk assessment

Risk Assessments in Schools

Undertaking a risk assessment may sound like a daunting task, but you may not have considered that we undertake risk assessments without even knowing we are doing one.

A common example is crossing the road. You stop and look both ways. If a car is coming you estimate how fast it is going, and whether it is too close to walk in front of. If there is a pedestrian crossing you would use that instinctively. You assess the risks of the situation and then you cross.

This simple everyday task contains very similar steps to what you would take to do a risk assessment of your school, or tasks you undertake.

Here is a brief overview of how you undertake a simple risk assessment.

What is a Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment is an examination of a workplace or activity, identifying what might cause harm to people in order to determine whether reasonable steps are being taken to prevent such harm occurring.

The primary aim of a risk assessment is to prevent harm and reduce risk to an acceptable level.

Hazards and Risks

The key terms you need to understand when undertaking risk assessments are “Hazard” and “Risk”.

  • Hazard - anything with the potential to cause harm. Common hazards in schools include fire, manual handling and asbestos.
  • Risk - the likelihood of the hazard causing harm or damage and the severity that could occur. Factors that influence the degree of risk include how much an individual is exposed to a hazard, how the person is exposed and the severity of injury that could occur in the event of exposure.

Five Steps of a Risk Assessment

Risk assessment should follow the five steps as follows:

  1. Identify the hazards - remember, a hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. Hazards include wet floors, frayed cables and loud noises.
  2. Identify who might be harmed and how – employees are the main group of people who are at risk, but don’t forget contractors, the general public and vulnerable persons such as trainees, young workers and new expectant mothers.
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on suitable control measures – this means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the risk in terms of money, time and trouble.
  4. Record your findings – this is required to comply with health and safety law, to provide proof of having carried out a risk assessment and so everyone can see what needs to be done.
  5. Review and update the risk assessment regularly – reasons for reviewing include an appropriate amount of time (e.g. annually), changes to legislation or change of circumstances such as the introduction of new processes or equipment.

We have a Risk Assessment Online course which covers these areas in more detail, and provides you with a certificate of competence. We also have a free risk assessment template which you can download here.

Your annual fire risk assessment, and risk assessments for higher risk tasks such as working in confined spaces and work at height, should be completed by a competent person. We can help you with this.

Now you have been provided with relevant information and a free template to help you on your way, why not give it a go?


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