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Steps to Conducting a Comprehensive Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a process which involves carrying out an assessment in order to identify potential hazards or risks in a particular environment or activity. Its purpose is to evaluate the likelihood and potential consequences of these hazards, and it should determine appropriate measures in order to mitigate or manage the risks. Risk assessments are part of the overall risk management process and are included in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. 

Risk assessments play an important role across various sectors, including finance, healthcare and cybersecurity, as they help organisations to understand, evaluate and mitigate potential risks. It is useful in providing organisations with insights into potential risks, enabling informed decision-making, and helping to develop effective risk mitigation strategies. An effective risk assessment is also crucial in order to identify significant danger to workers’ health and safety.

By carrying out a risk assessment, individuals or organisations can:

  • Identify potential risks.
  • Understand or predict consequences.
  • Prioritise risks in terms of likelihood and severity.
  • Develop and implement mitigation strategies.
  • Allocate resources prioritising high-priority risks.
  • Improve decision-making.
  • Comply with regulations or standards within your industry or organisation.
  • Improve communication.
  • Promote accountability.
  • Monitor and review the risk assessment in order to identify any new risks and assess the effectiveness of the risk management which is currently in place.

Risk assessments are important in order to:

  • Prevent accidents from occurring – by identifying potential hazards and evaluating risks, preventive measures can be implemented which can minimise or eliminate the likelihood of accidents and injuries from occurring.
  • Make informed decisions – risk assessments provide valuable information that aids decision-making processes. This can include implementing safety protocols. Having a clear understanding of risks allows for more informed and strategic decisions.
  • Give stakeholders confidence –showing that you are actively addressing and minimising risks, gives stakeholders confidence in the organisation. Organisations that demonstrate a commitment to identifying and managing risks responsibly are often viewed more favourably by stakeholders. This can contribute to a positive reputation, which can attract customers, partners and talent.
  • Promote continuous improvement – regularly reviewing and updating risk assessments fosters a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability.

Some jobs are statistically more dangerous than other jobs, for example the construction industry. Around 6% of the UK population works in construction, and according to recent statistics, 78,000 construction workers suffered from work-related ill health over a period of three years. In the year 2021-2022, there were 30 fatal injuries in the sector with 51% of these due to falls from a height. Other causes of death include entrapment, being hit by a falling object, being hit by a moving vehicle and contact with electricity or electrical discharge. For further reading about construction site safety, please see our knowledge base.  

Comprehensive risk assesment

Define the scope and objectives

It is important to define the scope and objectives of a risk assessment in order to ensure that the assessment process is effective and focused. It is important to:

  • Identify assets and risks – identifying the assets involves people, processes, technology and information that need to be protected and considering the potential risks they face. It may be important to consider both internal and external threats.
  • Understand the context – understanding the context in which the risk assessment will take place includes considering the organisation’s goals, objectives, stakeholders, regulatory requirements, and any other relevant factors either internal or external.
  • Determine your objectives – the objectives of the risk assessment should align with the organisation’s overall goals and values. Common objectives may include things like identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities, assessing the likelihood and impact of the identified risks, prioritising risks based on their significance, developing risk mitigation strategies, and providing stakeholders with clear information.
  • Consider any constraints – take into account any constraints that may impact the risk assessment process. This may include things such as budget, time, resources, expertise and data availability.
  • Document your scope and objectives – you should clearly document the scope and objectives of the risk assessment in a formal document. This ensures alignment between stakeholders and also provides a reference point throughout the risk assessment process.
  • Review and refine – you should review the scope and objectives regularly in order to ensure that they remain relevant. You should refine them as necessary based upon feedback and lessons learned from previous assessments.

Identify potential risks

Identifying risks in a risk assessment involves a thorough examination of potential hazards and threats that could impact on a project, process or organisation. Some important steps may include:

  • Defining your objectives – your objectives should be clear and everybody involved should understand what needs to be protected or achieved.
  • Gather information – you should collect all relevant data and information about the project. This may include documentation, data, stakeholder input and industry best practices.
  • Involve stakeholders throughout – involving stakeholders in the risk assessment process is vital for several reasons. Stakeholders will often have first-hand knowledge of specific processes, systems or areas of the business. Their input can help to create more accurate identification and assessment of risks.
  • Use brainstorming sessions – you should organise brainstorming sessions involving relevant stakeholders in order to generate a comprehensive list of potential risks. Encourage open discussion and creativity to discuss common and more uncommon risks.
  • Use checklists and templates – utilise risk checklists and templates which are specific to the industry or domain in order to ensure that no common risks are overlooked. These can serve as prompts in order to begin discussions and continue to identify risks.
  • Review existing documents – review existing documentation. This could include things such as incident reports, lessons learned and risk registers in order to identify recurring or any previously encountered risks.
  • Use technology effectively – technology plays an important role in modern risk assessments including in areas such as finance, healthcare, environmental science and cybersecurity. The integration of technology has enhanced the accuracy, efficiency and comprehensiveness of risk assessments.
  • Categorise risks – you should consider various categories of risks such as technical, operational, financial, environmental, legal and reputational, as this will ensure that a comprehensive assessment is completed.
  • Consider external factors – this could include things such as regulatory changes, market trends and natural disasters. These things may introduce new risks or amplify existing ones.
  • Review the list of identified risks – this should be done in collaboration with stakeholders in order to ensure accuracy, completeness and relevance. You should assess the significance of each risk.
  • Document the identified risks – this should be done along with relevant details such as descriptions of the risks, potential impacts, likelihood of it happening, and mitigation strategies. You should also report your findings to relevant stakeholders.

Assess and analyse risks

Developing a comprehensive understanding of risks and implementing strategies to manage them effectively is an important part of the assessment and analysis. It involves a structured approach to understanding potential threats and opportunities that could impact on your objectives. As part of the assessment process, you will need to:

  • Identify the risk.
  • Categorise the risk.
  • Prioritise the risk.

Risk analysis involves qualitative analysis and quantitative analysis. Qualitative analysis involves assessing the probability and impact of each identified risk qualitatively. This could be done using techniques such as risk scoring or risk registers. You could assign each risk a likelihood score and impact rating. This could be based on expert judgement or historical data. Quantitative analysis is linked to the probability and impact. Understanding the underlying causes of each risk can help to develop effective risk mitigation strategies. 

Risk response planning can help with risk avoidance. You could eliminate the risk by avoiding the activity that leads to it, although this is not always possible. Risk mitigation means implementing measures to reduce the likelihood or impact of the risk. Risk transfer means transferring the risk to a third party; this might be done through insurance, contracts or outsourcing. Risk acceptance means accepting the risk if its potential impact is within acceptable tolerance levels. Contingency planning is also important in order to deal with risks if they happen.

It is also important to consider the quality of your data. Poor data quality can lead to poor risk assessments, which can result in negative consequences for businesses, organisations or individuals. Enhancing data quality in risk assessments is important in order to make informed decisions, and minimising potential errors or biases.

conducting a comprehensive risk assesment

Develop risk mitigation strategies

Developing risk mitigation strategies involves identifying potential risks, assessing their impact and likelihood, and implementing measures to reduce or eliminate their effects. This can only be done after the risks have been identified and assessed. For each risk, you can develop specific mitigation strategies in order to reduce its likelihood or impact. 

These strategies can include:

  • Avoidance – this involves taking actions in order to eliminate the risk entirely, such as avoiding certain activities or changing project plans.
  • Transfer – this involves transferring the risk to another party, such as through insurance or outsourcing.
  • Mitigation – this involves implementing measures in order to reduce the likelihood or impact of the risk, such as improving processes, enhancing security measures or using different resources.
  • Acceptance – this involves accepting the risk and its potential consequences. You will need to access whether it falls within acceptable limits and whether it can be effectively mitigated.

Everything should be well documented and effective communication should take place throughout. Continuous monitoring and regular reviews should take place in order to monitor the effectiveness of your risk mitigation strategies. This includes adequately training employees. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires an employer to provide the correct information, instruction, training and supervision in order to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees. Inadequate training can result in negative outcomes such as decreased performance, increased mistakes and failure to achieve desired goals or standards. 

Monitor and review

It is important to regularly monitor and review your risk assessment so that you can:

  • Identify new risks – as new projects begin, or external circumstances change, new risks may emerge. Regular review helps in identifying these new risks so that they can be appropriately assessed and managed.
  • Be aware of any changes – over time, the context in which risks exist may change due to technological advancements, market dynamics or regulatory changes. Regular monitoring ensures that the risk assessment remains relevant.
  • Ensure compliance requirements – compliance with regulatory standards or legal requirements means that regular monitoring and review of risk assessments is vital in order to ensure that the organisation remains in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • Identify learning and improvement – regular review provides opportunities for learning and improvement.
  • Improve communication – regular monitoring and review help to facilitate open dialogue about risks.

Documentation and reporting

Good documentation and reporting is important for maintaining transparency, accountability and effectiveness. You should document each step of the risk assessment process, including data collection, analysis methods, assumptions made and decisions taken. Some things you can do in order to ensure good documentation and reporting include:

  • Use standardised templates – this promotes consistency and makes it easier to compare results across different assessments.
  • Record your findings – you should record all identified risks using a structured format such as a risk matrix or risk register to organise this information effectively.
  • Include recommendations – provide recommendations for managing or mitigating the risks. These recommendations should be practical, actionable and aligned with the organisation’s objectives and available resources.
  • Secure documentation – ensure that documentation and reports are stored securely, so as to protect any sensitive information and maintain confidentiality.
  • Ensure good data quality – poor data quality can lead to poor risk assessments, which can result in negative consequences for businesses, organisations or individuals. Enhancing data quality in risk assessments is important in order to make informed decisions, and minimising potential errors or biases.

Sharing risk assessment documents within an organisation involves ensuring that the information is shared effectively, securely and to the relevant people who are affected. Determine who within the organisation needs access to the risk assessment documents. This may include executives, heads of department, project managers and relevant team members. You should select the most appropriate communication channel for sharing the documents, which could include email or internal messaging platforms. You should ensure that your risk assessment documents are well-structured, easy to understand and contain all of the necessary information. It is important to use clear language and appropriate formatting, as this will make the documents visually appealing and easy to read.

It is also important to foster an environment where stakeholders feel comfortable providing feedback on the risk assessment documents. Encourage collaboration and discussion to improve the quality and relevance of the assessments.

steps to conducting a risk assesment

Conclusion

Risk assessment is a critical process that informs decision-making in a variety of fields, including finance, healthcare and beyond. Conducting a comprehensive risk assessment is an important process which is essential for any organisation in order for them to identify, analyse and mitigate potential risks effectively. 

A good quality risk assessment framework empowers organisations to make informed decisions, allocate resources effectively, and safeguard their assets, reputation and stakeholders’ interests. 

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About the author

Claire Vain

Claire Vain

Claire graduated with a degree in Social Work in 2010. She is currently enjoying her career moving in a different direction, working as a professional writer and editor. Outside of work Claire loves to travel, spend time with her family and two dogs and she practices yoga at every opportunity!



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