Before diving into the 5 steps to risk assessment, let’s quickly go through some of the terms that we’ll be using. Don’t worry too much if they seem confusing to begin with as we’ll be covering them in more depth as we go through the 5 steps.
A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm. Some examples would be a piece of equipment, a substance, a chemical reaction, a source of energy, a location such as a confined space. The list goes on, but if it has the potential to cause harm – it can be called a hazard.
A hazardous event is when someone or something interacts with a hazard and harm occurs, or could have occurred.
Risk is the combination of the chance (or likelihood) of harm occurring and if it does occur, how serious (or severe) the consequences will be.
The HSE has defined risk assessment as…
“a careful examination of what, in the workplace, could cause harm to people, so that a decision can be made as to whether the precautions taken are satisfactory or whether more should be done to prevent harm”.