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Principles of sensible risk management


  • Sensible risk management is about:
    • Ensuring that workers and the public are properly protected
    • Providing overall benefit to society by balancing benefits and risks, with a focus on reducing real risks – both those which arise more often and those with serious consequences
    • Enabling innovation and learning not stifling them
    • Ensuring that those who create risks manage them responsibly and understand that failure to manage real risks responsibly is likely to lead to robust action
    • Enabling individuals to understand that as well as the right to protection, they also have to exercise responsibility
  • Sensible risk management is not about:
    • Creating a totally risk free society
    • Generating useless paperwork mountains
    • Scaring people by exaggerating or publicising trivial risks
    • Stopping important recreational and learning activities for individuals where the risks are managed
    • Reducing protection of people from risks that cause real harm and suffering

The principles were launched by Bill Callaghan, Chair of the Health and Safety Commission in August 2006

How to assess the risks in your workplace

Follow these five steps:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precaution
  4. Record your findings and implement them
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary

Don’t overcomplicate the process. In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. You probably already know whether, for example, you have employees who move heavy loads and so could harm their backs, or  where people are most likely to slip or trip. If so, check that you have taken reasonable precautions to avoid injury.

If you run a small organisation and you are confident you understand what’s involved, you can do the assessment yourself. You don’t have to be a health and safety expert.If you work in a larger organisation, you could ask a health and safety adviser to help you. If you are not confident, get help from someone who is competent. In all cases, you should make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. They will have useful information about how the work is done that will make your assessment of the risk more thorough and effective. But remember, you are responsible for seeing that the assessment is carried out properly.

When thinking about your risk assessment, remember:

  • a hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer etc;
  • the risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by these and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.

Further guidelines are attached below along with form templates.