SAFed Health and Safety Passport Scheme

Module 3 — Risk Assessments  

3.1       Introduction

This document forms one of a series of modules on various health and safety subjects that comprise the examinable material considered necessary for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

When you have studied this module you should have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to answer the questions detailed at the end of the module.  Upon satisfactory completion of all modules, you will be eligible to undertake the final assessment for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

The SAFed Health and Safety Passport is issued to Engineer Surveyors by the Health and Safety Manager of their employing company upon satisfactory completion of the Safety Passport final assessment.

The award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport provides evidence that the holder of the Passport has the appropriate knowledge and awareness in health and safety matters considered necessary for an Engineer Surveyor to undertake the duties for which they are authorised by their employing company.

The passport is valid for a maximum of three years.

3.2       Key Objectives

Having studied this module you should have an awareness of:

·         The relevant legislation associated with Risk Assessments.

·         The meaning of Risk Assessment.

·         The definition of a hazard and typical hazards encountered in the workplace.

·         The definition and meaning of Risk.

·         The risk assessment process.

·         Qualitative and quantitative Risk Assessments.

·         Controls and control measures.

·         Risk assessors.

·         Machinery mechanical and non-mechanical hazards

3.3       Legal Commentary

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 places general duties on all employers within Section 2, which states:

‘It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees.’

Although risk assessment is not a specific requirement of the Act the need to undertake such assessments is implied throughout.

A number of regulations implemented under the Act do however place specific duties on employers to undertake risk assessments.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states within regulation 3 that:

‘Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:

(1) Risks to health and safety of their employees whilst they are at work

(2) Risks to health and safety of persons not in their employment arising from the undertaking.’

In essence the Management Regulations require all employers to undertake systematic general examinations of their work activities in order to identify the hazards present and the extent of any resultant risks. Employers with 5 or more employees must record the significant findings of any such examination or risk assessment. 

Whilst the Management Regulations may be considered the principal regulations in relation to the undertaking of risk assessments, other regulations, which are listed below, impose the duty in more specific areas as:

·         The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002;

·         The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992,

·         The Health and Safety (Manual Handling Operations) Regulations 1992,

·         The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992,

·         The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997,

·         The Noise at Work Regulations 1989,

·         The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002,

·         The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002.

3.4       Discussion

A risk assessment is nothing more than a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to yourself or to other people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.  The aim of a risk assessment is to make sure no one gets hurt or becomes ill.

It is imperative that an Engineer Surveyor carries out or has a risk assessment on the equipment he is about to examine and the environment local to that piece of equipment.

3.5       Risk Assessments
3.5.1    Risk Assessment – What is it?

Risk assessment is a series of logical steps undertaken to enable, in a systematic way, the examination of the hazards associated with a process, activity, or machine, evaluate the risks arising from those hazards and decide upon the controls necessary to reduce those risks to their lowest practicable level.

Risk assessment provides the answers to three principle questions:

i) What can go wrong?

ii) How often can it go wrong?

iii) What are the effects and the consequences?

The HSE state that there are FIVE basic steps to risk assessment.

Step 1         Identify the hazards

Step 2         Decide who might be harmed and how

Step 3         Evaluate the risk taking into account existing control measures

Step 4         Record your findings

Step 5         Review your assessment from time to time and revise as necessary

3.5.2    Hazard and Risk

Before attempting to undertake risk assessments we must appreciate the differences between a hazard and a risk:


A hazard is defined as anything with the potential to cause harm.  The HSE additionally interpret a workplace hazard as anything presenting the possibility of danger.  An article, substance, person or situation may present hazards, which tend to fall into four basic categories:

Physical           Noise, vibration, lighting, mechanical, radiation, heat etc.

Ergonomic      Posture, work position, duration, repetitive work.

Biological        Bacteria, viruses etc.

Chemical         Dust, fume, gases, liquids, vapours.

Typical work related hazards are presented by electricity, tools, untrained personnel, solvents, machinery, noise, vibration, cables strewn across a workshop floor, poor housekeeping, repetitive working practices, working at height, manual handling, etc.

A single operation may present more than one hazard or type of hazard.

A production line assembly process could present hazards due to the repetitive nature of the task, poor lighting, poor posture, the use of powered hand tools, manual handling of components, noise from associated or surrounding machinery or activities, the use of chemicals and other workers.

Picture 1. Practical Hazard:

Stanley Knife

A Stanley knife is a common tool used throughout industry and domestically. The knife consists of self-contained handle and retractable blade.  The retractable blade can be razor sharp when new and presents the principal hazard.  The blade has the potential to cause injury!

Typical Examination Hazards encountered by Engineer Surveyors

·         lone working,

·         work at height,

·         entanglement with exposed lift machinery,

·         impact by moving lift shaft equipment,

·         exposure to biological agents,

·         exposure to hazardous chemicals,

·         pressurised plant,

·         work under raised plant,

·         electricity,

·         access/egress,

·         moving plant,

·         work in unfamiliar surroundings


Risk is defined as the likelihood that the hazard will be realised, coupled with the severity of the harm that may result

Risk   =    Probability of Occurrence    x     Severity of Injury

[Note: In a recent publication the HSE stated that anything present in an undertaking, which gives rise to the possibility of danger, should be properly addressed]

Persons exposed to risks can include:

·         Operatives.

·         Those directly involved in a process.

·         Persons working in the vicinity or passing by.

·         Other employees, contractors, visitors and members of the public.

Risk Ranking

Risk may be estimated at three stages:

Raw                 The level of risk with no controls in place;

Residual          The level of risk having regard for any existing control measures;

Final                The level of risk when further action or additional controls have been implemented.

As an Engineer Surveyor when undertaking your initial risk assessments you will be concentrating on residual risk.  The “as is” position, which takes into account any existing controls or mitigating factors.

3.5.3    The Risk Assessment Process
Survey and Assessment

Initially if all operations are not covered by suitable risk assessments, or existing assessments are considered outdated or inadequate, a survey will need to be undertaken of all the generic, and any specialist, examinations.  This survey will look for anything that could reasonably be expected to cause harm.  This survey process could lead to the preparation of an inventory of hazard sources and may be broken down to cover individual types of examinations, traction lift, hydraulic lift, power press etc.

The formulation of a record or inventory of the source of any hazards presented should be the first stage in the process of managing those hazards.

The component parts of such an inventory may be broken down as follows:

·         An identification of all generic examinations,

·         An identification of any specialist examinations,

·         A list of potential hazard sources which may be presented across a range of examinations/sites,

·         A list of any one, other than Surveyors, who may be affected by the hazards generated during examination.

The inventory may then form the basis for the undertaking of generic risk assessments for examination activities.


The practical process of undertaking any risk assessment should follow a series of logical steps as follows:

·         Clearly define the equipment, process or activity to be assessed.

·         Identify the hazards involved.

·         Identify who may be exposed and the consequences of exposure.

·         Identify any existing control measures or mitigating factors.

·         Make an initial evaluation of the risks arising from those hazards.

·         Where the risks are not considered tolerable develop an action plan of controls designed to reduce the residual risk to its lowest practicable level.

·         Record your findings.

·         Implement controls and re-evaluate the risks.

·         Monitor and review.

In order to meet the requirements, (necessary under regulations), for a “suitable and sufficient” risk assessment the above process should be formally recorded ensuring that:

·         All the foreseeable significant risks arising out of the work activity are identified.

·         Employers or the self-employed are able to identify and prioritize the measures needed to comply with relevant statutory provisions.

·         The assessment is appropriate to nature of the work.

There is no standard or approved format for the recording of risk assessments.  The use and adoption of an appropriate format is the responsibility of individual employers.  However, the format and complexity of any assessment should reflect the activity being assessed and should be easily understood by those affected or involved.

A typical risk assessment format for Engineer Surveyors could comprise:

i)                    A generic assessment for different types of plant and systems made available to all relevant engineer surveyors.

ii)                   A residual assessment on site by surveyors, in conjunction with the generic assessment, to take into account site-specific hazards.

The generic and residual assessment formats in combination should meet the legal requirements of being suitable and sufficient by providing the following information.

·         A clear identification of the subject of the assessment.

·         An indication of exposure details.

·         The significant hazards present.

·         Any existing controls.

·         An evaluation of the risks.

·         An action plan

3.5.4    The Methodology

The two basic formats for the undertaking of risk assessments are:

i)                    Qualitative

ii)                   Quantitative

Qualitative Risk Assessment

This is the most simplistic of the methods used to assess risk.  It is very subjective and based on personal judgement and possibly generalized data.  Such an assessment will allocate a general categorization to a risk such as low, medium or high.

Qualitative Outcome Matrix  

Quantitive Risk Assessment

A quantitative assessment of risk is more objective and scientific and may be based on known factors relating to a risk or activity.  These could include industrial accident statistics as applied to specific industry sectors or those relating to the risk of death from specific activities.

For example if attempting to quantitatively assess the risks involved in scuba diving it may be prudent to consider the associated statistics which indicate that the annual risk of death is 1 in every 200 000 dives.  Quantitative assessments are useful when allocating priorities to control measures.

In a general industrial context it is usually more practical to use selected criteria placed against probabilities and severity’s to produce an overall risk score

Probability Levels  

Severity Score 1 Severity of Injury
1 - Very Low No injury likely eg damaged or soiled clothing. Minor Bruising.
2 - Slight Minor injury – laceration or bruising requiring first aid only
3 - Moderate Injury requiring medical intervention by GP or Hospital eg laceration needing stitches, sprain, fractures of small bones of hand or foot etc
4 - High Serious injury including hospitalisation for observation eg concussion, fracture of long bones of leg or arm, back and neck injuries, fractured skull
5 - Very High Severe injury involving potential for permanent disability e.g. amputation, loss of sight, spinal injury, fatality
A quantitative risk score is calculated as the product of the probability of occurrence and the severity of the likely injury.
Risk = Probability x Severity.  
A purely qualitative risk assessment may be too subjective or simplistic for many work situations whist a purely quantitative assessment may be too restrictive.  A more practical solution may be presented by the use of a format, which utilises both methodologies.  The quantitative data obtained using laid down criteria may be used to obtain a risk score which is then transposed into an outcome matrix in order to obtain an overall qualitative ranking of the risk.
Outcome Matrix
Severity of Injury
Probability of Occurrence

This combined methodology presents the optimum means of achieving consistency across individual assessors or groups of assessors in a variety formats which, whilst not over complicated, should better enable the aims of the assessment to be realised.

Two basic formats using the combined methodology can be utilised; one format aimed at the production of generic assessments and a second format for the undertaking of site specific assessments.

3.5.5 Controls and Control Measures

In relation to all hazards a hierarchy of controls should be followed in order to remove or reduce those hazards.

One of the standard hierarchies relating to general risk assessments is as follows:

Elimination/Substitution - remove the hazard at source – stop the activity or change a hazardous chemical for a non-hazardous alternative;

Reduction - reduce the risk at source  - replace a hazardous piece of equipment or tool with a less hazardous alternative,

Isolation - isolate the source of the risk, segregate a high-risk machine from employees,

Control – guarding, safety devices, sound proof noisy machines,

PPE - Goggles, gloves etc.

Discipline – Supervision, information, instruction and training, Safe Systems of Work.

In attempting to evaluate the risks presented by any identified hazards we must consider any existing controls in place.  Such controls could be in the form of existing physical safeguards such as guarding, interlocks and other safety devices or management measures such as supervision, authorised usage or training.  Highlighting the presence of risk through signage and indicating appropriate protective measures could be considered as low-level control.

More crucially any attempt to reduce the level of risk will undoubtedly require the implementation of additional or improved controls.  This could include improving the level of current safeguards through addition, improvement, replacement or modification.  Management systems may need to be reviewed to ensure the optimum levels of supervision, authorisation and training are being implemented.

Action Plans

Any format or combination of formats utilised to undertake a risk assessment should incorporate an action plan.  When the findings of an assessment indicate that additional controls or actions are required to reduce risks to a more tolerable level these should be indicated within the action plan.  The plan should allocate a target date and responsibility for the completion of actions.  Any recommended actions should be signed and dated by the responsible person on completion.

The greater the risk the higher the priority assigned to the implementation of suitable controls.

The introduction of additional or new controls should lead to a reassessment of the risk.

Monitor and Review

A risk assessment should be routinely monitored and reviewed to ensure it remains relevant and that any controls previously implemented remain effective.

Whilst there is no statutory review period a suitable date for periodic review should be indicated within the assessment document.  Otherwise a risk assessment should be reviewed:

·         if there is a reason to suspect it is no longer valid

·         if there have been significant changes

·         if following exceptional circumstances for example an accident

Once an Engineer Surveyor has completed a site assessment on his first visit to an installation the review at subsequent visits will hopefully comprise of no more than a visual check for changes or new hazards.

If there have been significant changes to the installation, (lift, crane, boiler, etc.), the assessment will need to be re-conducted in full.


3.5.6    Risk Assessors
Who Should Carry Out Risk Assessments?

Only a competent person who has been trained to undertake assessments and has sufficient knowledge and experience of the operation or activity to be assessed should carry out Risk Assessments.

It is equally important that those people directly involved in such operations or activities, (operators, maintenance personnel etc.), are involved in the process.

Know Your Information Sources

Simple observance of an activity alone, whilst the simplest form of hazard identification, is unlikely to be fully effective and should be supplemented by interviews and reference to relevant documentation.

Utilise all the information sources available including statutory provisions, accident records, manufacturer’s data, industry guidance and of course other employees.

Know Your Limitations

Do not attempt to undertake Risk Assessments on operations or activities, which are beyond your competency due to the complexity of the operation, the level and nature of risk involved or the need for specialist techniques.

For example you should be competent to identify noise as a potential hazard associated with a particular operation but you will not be competent to undertake a noise assessment as required by the Noise at Work Regulations.


3.5.7    Plant and Machinery Based Risk Assessments

The undertaking of statutory thorough examinations are ostensibly plant and machinery based. Machine based hazards present the majority of the more serious hazards presented to Engineer Surveyors.  As such surveyors need to be aware of the specific hazards relating to machinery.

Machinery Hazards

The hazards associated with the use of machinery are many and varied.  The following information summarises the main hazards both mechanical and non-mechanical.  For a full list of hazards, hazardous situations and events reference should be made to BS EN 1050: 1997

Friction and Abrasion               
Drawing in/Trapping  



Impact and Crushing  

Additionally - compressed air or high pressure fluids may be considered as mechanical hazards, as injection can result in blood infections and injuries to tissue which are similar to crushing injuries.

Non Mechanical Hazards

Machinery based activities additionally present a number of non-mechanical hazards which are again summarised below:

NOISE - hearing loss- tinnitus, tiredness, stress and interference with speech and acoustic signals.

THERMAL - burns, scalds- health damaging effects generated by hot or cold work environment.

VIBRATION - vibration white finger.

RADIATION - lasers, radio frequencies, infrared, ultra-violet, x-rays, microwaves, etc.

MATERIALS / SUBSTANCES - contact with, or inhalation of: fluids vapours, mists, fumes and dusts - fire or explosive hazards, biological hazards. 

ILLUMINATION - poor lighting-eye strain.

ACCESS - slips, trips  & falls.

CONTROLS & CONTROL SYSTEMS - labelling, unsafe by position, inadvertent start-up, fail-safe.

ERGONOMICS - Hazards generated by neglecting ergonomic principles in machine design.  For example, layout or mismatch of machinery with human characteristics and abilities may show itself by:

·         PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS - posture, excessive or repetitive action/effort etc.

·         PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS - stress

3.6       End of module and next steps

Well done!  By reaching this point you will have finished studying this particular module.  You should now have sufficient knowledge to answer the questions contained at the end of the module.

Answers to the questions should be forwarded to your Health and Safety Manager.

Provided that you have answered the questions correctly, your Health and Safety Manager will forward to you your next self study module.

To answer Module 3 Questions Click here