Identify The Risks and Hazards


All hazards need to be considered in risk assessments. A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. A risk is the likelihood that someone could be harmed by a hazard, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be. The law doesn't require you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as is 'reasonably practicable'.

Identify Hazards in Your Workplace

The first stage of a risk assessment is to look for hazards. A hazard can be something easily seen, such as a trailing cable, a worn carpet or exposed wiring. Or it can be something less obvious - a slippery surface, for example.

It can be something general, such as poor lighting. Or it can be something specific to your business, such as the particular hazardous substances you use. A hazard can be something directly affecting your employees, such as exposure to bacteria - or something affecting the environment in general, such as your waste materials.

You should distinguish between:

  • workplace hazards, such as a workshop's layout
  • activity hazards, such as using grinding machinery in your workshop
  • environmental hazards, such as the dust created when using grinding machinery

When looking for hazards it can be helpful to:

  • walk around your business
  • talk to employees who may be more aware of your business' hazards than you
  • look at safety data sheets and manufacturers' instructions to identify potential problem areas
  • examine accident and health records to identify existing problem areas

Checklist: Watching Out for Workplace Hazards

For each hazard you need to be clear about who may be harmed. This will help you identify the best way to manage the risk. You should also consider those hazards which affect contractors, visitors, customers and others who may not be on site all of the time. In each case, identify how they may be harmed - what type of injury or ill health might occur.

Some workplace hazards can be easily spotted. However, many can be easily overlooked. Make sure you:

  • tidy up loose or trailing cabling
  • look out for wet, slippery, unclean or badly surfaced floors
  • ensure all areas are well lit
  • check for adequate ventilation
  • ensure that chemicals, including cleaning substances, are stored, handled and disposed of properly
  • put in place safe procedures for handling flammable substances
  • check for faulty or inappropriate electrical equipment
  • manage waste responsibly
  • fix bad drainage
  • ensure ladders and scaffolding are safe and fit for the purpose they are intended for
  • ensure that tools, equipment and machinery are safe and properly maintained
  • improve poorly designed workstations
  • check for exposure to vibration from tools, equipment or processes
  • check for exposure to prolonged, sudden or loud noises
  • implement sufficient rest breaks
  • provide appropriate and well-maintained protective wear
  • provide appropriate training
  • ensure vehicle loading and unloading operations are carried out safely
  • check for exposure to excessive work pressure¬†