A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, could cause harm to people, to enable precautions to be taken to prevent injury and ill-health.


A risk assessment is an important step in protecting workers and business, as well as complying with the law. It helps focus on the risks that really matter in the workplace – the ones with the potential to cause real harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks, for example ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly so people do not slip, or cupboard drawers are kept closed to ensure people do not trip.

Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.

Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and affect your business too if output is lost, machinery is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace so that you put in place a plan to control the risks.

What is it?

Risk assessment is the process of assessing the risks to workers’ safety and health from workplace hazards. It is an examination of all aspects of work that considers:

  • what could cause injury or harm
  • whether the hazards could be eliminated and if not
  • what control measures are, or should be, in place to control the risks

A hazard can be anything that has the potential to cause harm.

A risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody may be harmed by the hazard.

How do I carry out a risk assessment?

When carrying out your risk assessment try not to overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. If you are aware of the risks associated in your workplace, check that you have taken reasonable precautions to avoid injury.

There are five steps to assessing risk.

  • step 1  - identifing hazards and those at risk - what has the potential to cause injury or ill-health
  • step 2 - decide who might be harmed and how
  • step 3 - evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  • step 4 - record your findings and implement them
  • step 5 - review your risk assessment and update if necessary

For more detailed guidance on how to carry out a risk assessment download the HSENI publication 'Five steps to risk assessment'.

Do I need to record my risk assessment?

If you have five or more employees by law you must record the results of your risk assessment. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down, though it is useful so that you can review it at a later date if, for example, something changes.

Where can I find a risk assessment template and a worked example?

The following example risk assessment shows how a small office-based company might approach risk assessment within their work. This example can be used as a guide when thinking about the hazards in your own business and the steps that you would need to take in order to control the risks. A blank risk assessment template is also provided to help you carry out your own risk assessment:


Key legislation

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.