Risk has been defined on earlier pages as the chance (low through to high) that someone may be harmed, while giving consideration to the severity of that harm (from minor to significant).
At this stage of the process, the magnitude of the risk needs to be evaluated. When a simple Risk Assessment is needed, this means thinking about how severe the illness or injury could be as well as the likelihood of that injury. From this, it can be decided if the risk is low or high.
We suggest the following:
- Low: There is a small chance that someone may suffer a minor injury. This is an acceptable risk level because it is not possible to eliminate all causes of minor injuries.
- Moderate: Either there is a high probability of a minor injury or there is a low, but nevertheless significant, chance of a serious injury. Action is needed.
- High: There is a very high likelihood of a severe injury or an unacceptably high chance of a fatality. Immediate action is likely to be needed to prevent harm to people.
Example: Previously, we have looked at a doormat with a damaged corner that poses a trip hazard. There were three scenarios:
- The mat was in the vestry, with the curled-up part close to the filing cabinet. Nobody could access the mat and it posed no significant risk of injury so it is low risk.
- The mat was in the vestry, but had been put in the wrong way around, so people could trip over it. The risk is now somewhere between low and moderate.
- The mat is in the entrance. Now we have a larger number of people at risk, some of whom are vulnerable should they trip over. This makes the risk higher.
In previous pages, we have suggested that severity and likelihood can be scored 'low', 'medium' and 'high' depending on how severe the injury may be, and how likely it is to happen. These may be used to aid scoring the risk - use both scores do determine if the risk is acceptable or not:
- Low + Low = Insignificant risk. This is an acceptable risk level.
- Low + Medium (or Medium + Low) = Low risk. This is an acceptable risk level.
- Medium + Medium = Moderate risk. Action is needed.
- Low + High (or High + Low) = Moderate Risk. Action is needed.
- Medium + High (or High + Medium) = High risk. Immediate action is needed to prevent harm to people.
- High + High = Unacceptable - immediate action is needed to prevent harm to people.
While using such as scoring system is not mandatory, it can often be simpler to use than simply relying on judgement. One problem is that our judgement is coloured by our perception of risk which is affected by our training, experiences and knowledge. Often, people concentrate on the severity of the injury or illness and consider how they would feel if they were the injured party, ignoring the likelihood of the injury with must also be considered.
Some people like to use other scaling and scoring systems, often using a scale of one to five for severity and probability (likelihood). While this is not needed for many situations, some may find this technique more effective and consistent.
Previous Stage: Identify who is at risk, and how
Next Stage: Determine what is being done and decide if it is enough
Back to Risk Assessment