Risk Assessment

Getting your head around risk assessment with Chris Hannam

I am sure that most of you will have heard of risk assessments and you may know they are a legal requirement, but do you know what they comprise of or how to carry one out?

Risk assessment forms the basis of modern day health and safety. Event organisers are legally responsible for ensuring that overall safety at their event is maintained so that, as far as reasonably practicable, people setting up, breaking down and attending are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. Employers are legally required to produce them to limit risks to their employees, and it will be a condition of an event license that they be produced to an adequate standard. The local authority will need to see copies to ensure they are satisfied that an organiser has taken all reasonable steps to protect the safety of the public. Employees will need to see them for the jobs they undertake so they know what controls need to be put in place; they are of little use if they are just filed away.

Risk Assessment Diagram

A risk assessment is a systematic examination of a task, job or process for the purpose of:

  • Identifying the significant hazards that are present.
  • Deciding if what you have already done reduces the risk of someone being harmed to an acceptable level, and if not;
  • Deciding what further control measures you must take to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

The purpose of risk assessment is to identify what you need to do to meet the minimum legal requirements. By meeting your minimum legal duties you will, by default, have reduced risks to the lowest possible level. To find out what the lowest possible level is you will need to research the relevant legislation, regulations and Health and Safety Executive guidance documents.

A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace and at your event.

We carry out risk assessments every day, such as when we cross the road; the hazard in this case would be moving vehicles. We stop, look and listen before we cross; those are the controls we use.

HAZARD = anything with the potential to cause damage or harm

RISK = the likelihood of harm and the seriousness (severity) of the damage

Likelihood X Severity = Risk Rating

CONTROLS = the procedures or actions that must be put in place to reduce the risk to the lowest possible level

We can carry out a ‘risk rating’ by using the accompanying table. Initially this is done in the raw state, with no controls listed. We then add the controls to our assessment and carry out a second risk rating on the activity with these controls in place. This gives a residual risk factor.

Hazard identification and risk assessment will help you:

  • Recognise and control hazards
  • Create awareness (you can use this for training)
  • Set risk management standards based on acceptable safe practices and legal requirements
  • Reduce incidents
  • Save costs by being proactive instead of reactive.

Hazards can include noise, machinery, work at height, lifting (flying) large items of equipment, electricity, plant operations, hazardous substances, fire, work equipment, vehicles, low levels of light, manual handling, pyrotechnics, special effects etc. There may be several hazards associated with any given work activity.

More often than not, people think that incidents occur due to negligence or mistakes, but in fact most incidents occur due to insufficient controls.

Your proactive effort to implement risk management systems can prevent the majority of incidents that may occur. The following are examples of systems to put into place in your workplace or at your event to reduce the likelihood of a health and safety incident:

  • training
  • inspections
  • work procedures
  • employee fitness
  • planned maintenance of equipment and structures; and
  • ensuring sufficient and competent supervision.

A hazard identification and risk assessment process is a proactive one. It is more cost effective to complete this process and implement a risk management system than to have an incident on site and then create the risk management systems retrospectively.

As we have already stated, risk assessments are legally required; your insurance may not be valid if you fail to meet minimum legal requirements, and there are also ethical, reputational and financial benefits.


1        Extremely unlikely

2        Possible but unlikely

3        Conceivable

4        Probably would happen at some time

5        Almost certain to happen


1        No or minimum injury – No equipment or property damage

2        First aid treatment on site – Minimum equipment or property damage

3        First aid treatment off site – Equipment and property damage

4        Major injury or hospitalisation – Localised equipment or property damage

5        Fatality – Extensive property or equipment damage

Likelihood and Severity Risk AssessmentLikelihood x Severity = Risk Rating

1-6      LOW RISK Action is required to lower the risk. Time effort and money must be proportionate to the risk

7-15    MEDIUM RISK Action is required to control the risk. Immediate short term measures may be required

16-25  HIGH RISK Action is required urgently to control the risk. Further resources are almost inevitable

Hierarchy of risk control
The hierarchy of risk control is a system of control measures used to eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards, which has five levels of control measures. It is used when undertaking a risk assessment, to decide on which precautions are needed to control the risks posed by the hazards.

> Elimination – First try and see if the hazard can be removed eg. working on the ground instead of working at height.

> Substitution – Examples of this could be substituting a hazardous substance for a safer alternative, or a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) to replace a ladder etc.

> Engineering Controls – These could include use of work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height, or the installation or use of additional machinery such as local exhaust ventilation to control risks from dust or fume. Separate the hazard from operators by methods such as enclosing or guarding dangerous items of machinery/equipment, and give priority to measures that protect collectively over individual measures.

> Administrative Controls – These are all about implementing the procedures you need to work safely. For example, reducing the time workers are exposed to hazards (eg. by job rotation), prohibiting use of mobile phones in hazardous areas, increasing safety signage, and performing risk assessments.

> Personal Protection Equipment – We only use personal protection equipment (PPE) as the last resort, after all other methods of controlling the risk have been considered. The reason is PPE is only protective, it is not preventative. If chosen, PPE should be selected and fitted by the person who uses it. Workers must be trained in the function and limitation of each item of PPE.

Finally, we review our risk assessments on a regular basis or when operations, people, equipment and materials change to ensure they are current and up to date.

So there it is, a simple process; are you doing enough for your event or business?

Chris Hannam runs Stagesafe, offering health and safety consultancy and training for the live music and event production industries. With over 35 years’ experience he advises event organisers, production and tour managers, promoters, freelancers, service companies and businesses at every level on all H&S documentation, site planning, crowd management, CDM compliance, steward safety training, contractor safety management and more. www.stagesafe.co.uk

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