A risk assessment is the process of evaluating the consequences expected from an incident arising out of a hazard, such as a fatality or an injury requiring medical treatment and time off work, combined with the probability of this incident occurring. It’s the second step in the risk management process.

You should begin your risk management process by identifying all the hazards in your workplace and then conducting a risk assessment for each hazard. This will determine how likely it is that exposure to that hazard will cause harm, as well as the severity of harm that is likely to result.

Another benefit of conducting risk assessments is that they help to identify which hazards require the most urgent attention.

Risk assessments can be undertaken in different ways, such as by an individual or a group, and have a flexible time limit. It can also evaluate the whole task or the individual steps involved in a task.

Risk assessments are most effective when the person or team assessing the hazards is well informed. This means having a good knowledge of the business and the workplace, materials, processes or situations that are being assessed. It is also helpful to have a thorough understanding of the potential injuries or illnesses that could be associated with the tasks.

If a risk assessment is being made of a work task that requires specific skills or knowledge, only a person who is qualified should conduct the risk assessment.

Let’s say you’re conducting a risk assessment on working in a confined space. Only a competent person will be able to identify that hazards such as oxygen deficiencies or the presence of toxic gas will exist, and so they should be involved in the risk assessment.

When assessing risks associated with hazards, consider all existing risk controls but do not assume they will always work. When assessing a hazard that already has some risk controls in place, you should assess the risk both with and without the existing controls so that all potential risks can be identified.

And don’t forget to assess risks at different times at your workplace, such as when the site is busy, when forklifts are operating, trucks are making deliveries, equipment is being cleaned or maintained, or if new workers are operating equipment or are in the vicinity.


Remember, when you are conducting a risk assessment, you should consider what are the likely consequences of the hazard, i.e. what types of injuries or illnesses are likely to result? And how many people might be exposed to the hazard?

What is the likely severity of any injury, illness or damage? Will experience help reduce the risk? If risk control measures are in place, are they sufficient to eliminate or adequately reduce the risk?

A simple example would be if, during a site inspection, it was found that a rarely used wooden office desk had started to splinter. Gaffer tape had been placed across the splintered corner and appeared to be quite secure. The likelihood of injury from the desk is very low.

But if someone removed the tape and began using the desk, the risk of injury would increase. First aid may be required to remove a splinter, maybe some disinfectant used and a cover for the wound. This is a low-risk hazard as an injury is unlikely to occur and if it does occur, it is unlikely to be serious.


Top stories for Risk Assessment


Swim school fined $150,000 after diving accident leaves girl paralysed

Risk Management

A Victorian swim school has been convicted and fined $150,000 following a diving accident which left a 12-year-old girl quadriplegic.

By Portner Press on March 29th, 2019

Contractor liable for improperly secured work structure

Risk Management

A judgment in a Victorian Magistrate’s Court has highlighted the need for employers to seek engineering solutions when the risk indicates such a control is needed.

By Michael Selinger on February 15th, 2019

Penny-pinching shortcut costs employer $145K

Risk Management

In Safe Work NSW v Wholesale Joinery (2018) a cabinet manufacturer that directed its workers without a formal risk assessment was hit with a $145K penalty.

By Portner Press on February 7th, 2019

A dog’s dinner of a health and safety system

Risk Management

A plant in Victoria has been hit with penalties of more than $16,000 after an employee severed his middle finger and crushed two others in a meat mixer.

By Portner Press on December 4th, 2018

When the road is your workplace

Risk Management

Under health and safety law, any place where work is undertaken is a workplace, so health and safety law applies.

By Portner Press on November 13th, 2018

5 steps to meet your obligations to remote or isolated workers

Risk Management

As an employer, you have an obligation to manage the safety of those working away from your premises, or out of the eyesight or earshot of others.

By Portner Press on November 1st, 2018

Your questions answered: Contractor risk assessments

Risk Management

Q: Is our air conditioning contractor required to fill out a risk assessment for every job they are called out to undertake?

By Portner Press on October 11th, 2018

Case law: Failing to identify a risk can blow up in your face

Risk Management

WorkSafe Victoria took action against an employer after a subcontractor it had hired suffered serious burns when an empty chemical drum exploded.

By Portner Press on September 7th, 2018

Your questions answered: Do we have to provide employees with safe transport home from a work function?

Risk Management

Do we have a legal obligation to provide a safe mode of transport home from a work-related function?

By Portner Press on August 24th, 2018

Your questions answered: Hands-free kits or is Bluetooth enough?

Risk Management

Your questions answered: Hands-free kits or is Bluetooth enough?

By Portner Press on August 9th, 2018