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Who could be harmed, and how?

Risk is about the combination of a hazard with people. This stage is all about people and how they are affected by the hazards that have been identified in the previous stage. 

Who is at risk?

Think about the people that may be at risk from the harm that the hazard could cause.  Some things to think about are listed below:

  1. Consider if the people exposed are paid employees or volunteers, as well as members of the public or contractors who may be unfamiliar with premises and procedures;
  2. Think about those who may be at specific risk because of physical or psychological abilities, such as disabled people or the elderly.
  3. Think about hazards that may affect new and expectant mothers in their work, such as some harmful substances and strenuous lifting activities;
  4. Consider if a hazard could affect Children (under 16's) and Young People (under 18's) more than adults due to the physical development, knowledge or experiences of the children or young people at risk;
  5. Think about anyone who may be working alone when they are exposed to the hazard; and
  6. If you share a place of work with any other organisation, consider how your hazards affect their workers too.

Additionally, try to put a number against the quantities of people who are exposed.  The more people who are exposed to a hazard, the greater the chance of injury could be compared to a similar hazard that only a few people are exposed to.

Example: a church has a small door mat that is usually used in the vestry.  During snow, it is placed in the main entrance to catch the snow that is trampled in on the feet of worshippers.  The door mat has one corner that curls up which is a tripping hazard.  When it is in the vestry only a few people are at risk of tripping over it, while up to 50 are at risk when it is moved to the main entrance.  When it is moved to the entrance, it affects everyone, including elderly and disabled members of the congregation, but when it is in the vestry, it affects a maximum of five able-bodied adults.

How are they at risk?

Each hazard is likely to affect a person in a different way.  Some may have the potential to cause only a small cut, while others have the potential to cause fatalities.  At this point, think about the kinds of injuries that are most likely to happen as a direct result of the hazard. 

Some hazards will have the potential for a more severe outcome compared to others.

It may be helpful to rank hazards into a number of categories of increasing severity:

  • Low - these result in only minor injuries, where first aid treatment may be needed;
  • Medium - these are more severe injuries, such as broken limbs; and
  • High - these are very severe that result in long-term disability or fatalities.

Example: The door mat has a curled-up corner could cause someone to trip over.  While many people can balance themselves afterwards and will suffer no injury, it is foreseeable that someone could trip over leading to a broken limb, especially if the person is vulnerable due to their age.

How likely is it to cause harm?

Just because someone is exposed to a hazard that has the potential to cause them harm does not mean that they will suffer an injury or ill health as a result.  Therefore, it is important to think about the likelihood of harm happening.  This is about considering the chance (low through to high) that someone may be injured.

As with the severity of the injury, it is once again possible to think about ranking the likelihood (or probability, as it is sometimes known):

  • Low - this is unlikely to happen but possible (perhaps no more than one occurrence of an injury or illness every five years caused by the hazard);
  • Medium - it is foreseeable this could happen (perhaps one occurrence of an injury or ill health every year as a maximum caused by the hazard); and
  • High - this is likely to happen (perhaps a monthly occurrence of illness or injury caused by the hazard).

Example: When the door mat is placed in the vestry, it is usually placed with the curled-up end towards a filing cabinet and poses no risk as people cannot get close enough for them to trip over it; there is a low probability of harm.  However, if it has been rotated so that the curled-up part faces the vestry door, there is a much higher chance that someone would trip over it as people now have to walk over the damaged part of the mat.

Previous Stage: Identify the Hazards

Next Stage: Evaluate the risk

Back to Risk Assessment

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