The Purpose of Risk Assessments Explained

Employers in every industry are legally required to protect employees, contractors, customers and site visitors from harm. And doing so involves carrying out a risk assessment. 

The purpose of risk assessments is ultimately to improve workplace health and safety. But to achieve this, the risk assessment process needs to identify workplace hazards and reduce or eliminate the risks they pose. Risk assessments should raise awareness about hazards and risks, and communicate health and safety information to workers. Findings also should be recorded in order to achieve and demonstrate compliance with health and safety legislation. 

Raise Awareness of Hazards and Risks 

The first step of the risk assessment process involves identifying hazards and thinking about the risks they pose. Employers need to consider how hazards could cause accidents, injuries or ill-health, and who is at risk of being harmed. 

This step increases the employer’s awareness of health and safety risks in the workplace, allowing them to take the necessary action to remove hazards or reduce risks. The risk assessment findings should also be shared with workers to increase their awareness of the hazards and risks they face each day at work. Increased awareness can lead to employers, managers and employees taking more precautionary measures to protect themselves from harm. 

Eliminate or Reduce Health and Safety Risks 

Risk prevention is the main purpose of any risk assessment. Employers have a responsibility to reduce or eliminate risks in the workplace, so after identifying hazards and analysing the risks they pose, control measures should be put in place. 

Where possible and realistic, control measures can involve removing hazards to completely eliminating risks. However, it’s not always possible to remove risk factors completely. Hazards can come in the form of essential work equipment, cleaning products, or everyday activities. So when carrying out risk assessments, employers need to identify and implement actions that can reduce the likelihood of hazards causing harm. These measures can include: 

  • Finding safer, alternative products or equipment
  • Preventing or restricting access to hazardous materials, sites or equipment
  • Using personal protective equipment (PPE) 
  • Redesigning processes, adopting standard operating procedures or safe work practices to make workplace activities safer. These processes and procedures may be outlined in a method statement

However, precautions and safety measures should be proportionate to the level of risk. For example, hazards that lead to potentially fatal injuries will require more steps to reduce risks than hazards that could cause minor injuries. 

Communicate Health and Safety Information to Workers 

Once employers have completed a risk assessment, the findings need to be recorded and shared with employees throughout the company. Employees should have access to risk assessments at any time, as it details important health and safety information that workers can use to keep themselves safe at work. 

As mentioned above, a risk assessment can raise awareness of hazards, but it can also give employees a better understanding of the measures in place, so they can use precautions to protect themselves from harm and reduce risks. 

Risk assessments detail safety precautions that should be taken when working with dangerous equipment or materials, control equipment that should be used and how employees are expected to comply with health and safety policies. 

Demonstrate Compliance with Health and Safety Legislation

If the compliance of a company is called into question, risk assessments will often be the first place governing bodies look for proof that employers have assessed health and safety risks and put adequate control measures in place. 

Carrying out risk assessments and recording the findings is a legal requirement for companies with more than five employees. So as well as aiding risk prevention and communicating health and safety information, the purpose of risk assessments is to demonstrate compliance and reduce companies’ legal liability.  

Become a CHAS member and unlock a range of member benefits, including access to Business Shield Support and hundreds of electronic risk assessment and method statement templates and guides that can help you effectively manage risk. 

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