Accident prevention goes hand in hand with risk minimisation and neither is possible without a thorough assessment of what the risks are – in construction generally, for projects such as building, demolishing or refurbishing specifically and for individual sites and work environments.

Download our risk assessment template by following the link below and read on for further guidance.

Purpose of risk assessment

Construction site risk assessment

As such, a risk assessment facilitates prevention by outlining what the hazards are; who could be hurt and in what ways; and what control measures should be implemented to reduce risk.

In this way, a completed risk assessment fulfills the purpose of being:

  • A simple information document, which provides an overview of potential risks and health and safety hazards.
  • A plan of action which outlines control measures to be taken.
  • A record of who is responsible for such actions.
  • A starting point for developing necessary processes and protocols to support risk management, health, safety and accident prevention.
  • Documentary evidence which demonstrates:
    • Risk inspections were carried out.
    • Consultations with staff and those affected (such as the public) have taken place.
    • Hazards have been recognized and highlighted as relevant in the context of those who may be affected.
    • Reasonable precautions have been put into place.

As such, a risk assessment is advisable in all instances of construction work. Although site managers are not currently obliged to provide a written risk assessment unless there are more than five employees involved, from a good-practice perspective it is always advisable to create a written risk assessment. A written copy reflects the recognition, communication and management of site risk and can provide a working document which allows staff the opportunity to review and feedback, helping to ensure that no issues or types of risk are overlooked.

Risk assessment routine

Whilst some types of risk assessment can be necessarily in-depth, a basic construction risk assessment can be produced by following a five step process. Our free risk assessment template offers a useful starting point which can be used when following this process.
Risk assessment needs to be carried out by a designated person, such as site or project manager, or health and safety manager, in consultation with others as required across each of the five steps:

  1. Identify what the risks are.
  2. Identify who is at risk and how.
  3. Evaluate and prioritise the risks;
  4. Record significant findings and identify suitable control measures -, both those already in place and those which need to be put into place.
  5. Follow up regularly with reviews, updating the risk assessment as required.

1) Identify the risks

There are many types of risk within the construction industry, so any construction risk assessment will necessarily be thorough and relate to the specific environmental and operational factors of each individual site. However, examples of risk factors to consider across most construction sites might include:

RB22 Hoarding

Environmental:

  • Perimeter – including fencing and gates for both securing and screening; locks and access.
  • Signage
  • Site lighting
  • Buildings – including temporary buildings
  • Storage containers
  • Plant, vehicles and motorised equipment
  • Materials
  • Other environmental or site-specific factors, such as being next to a primary school or in an area of extreme flooding

Construction site risk

Operational:

  • Manual handling – including loading and lifting
  • Working at height
  • Working underground
  • Working with machinery
  • Working with and storing hazardous substances, including flammable substances (COSHH)
  • Noise
  • Demolition
  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment

In cases where there is a considerable risk due to the nature of the construction work, such as a significant fire risk due to continued phases of welding (which may present both environmental and operational risks) it may be necessary to explore this risk in more detail using a specific format. In such cases, additional guidance and risk assessment templates may be obtained from the specialists, such as the UK’s Fire Protection Association.

2) Identify who and how

For each identified risk, it’s important to note down who could be affected and how, whether this is site workers, including subcontractors, visiting professionals such as architects and building control or the passing public.

Overall, any aspect of risk to the public (on foot or by transport) must be included on the risk assessment. If there is a very public element to the construction site, such as being next to a busy thoroughfare or public building, and this makes the overall risk assessment unwieldy, developing a separate public risk assessment, to be appended to the overall risk assessment is advisable.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offer useful information, guidance and templates, including Public Risk Assessment and general workplace safety assessment information. There are also a variety of guides for evaluating construction role-specific risks, such as for bricklayers and electricians.

3) Evaluate and prioritise

By now, any assessment will be a record of numerous potential risks, so the third step is all about consultation and communication with employees, other relevant people or professional bodies to help identify and address the priority risk factors. Evaluation could take the form of Low, Mid or High or be demonstrated through a numbered scale or colour coding.

Again, at this stage it may be necessary to consult with additional specialists such as the fire service, the police, architects, building control and local council to clarify risk levels.

4) Recording significant findings and identifying control measures

At all stages, risk assessments should be completed using simple, easy to understand language. Whilst technical examples may need to be included, it is as well to keep these to a minimum.

Once risks are prioritised, it is a case of identifying what control or prevention measures are in place, and what additional measures should also be put into place. Each section should clearly state who is responsible for implementing and monitoring these measures, with a date for review.

Generally, the greater the risk, the more control measures and monitoring will need to be put into place so it’s important to also check that the measures in place are reasonable in relation to priority level of the risk.
Where there are lots of measures to be put into place for a specific area of risk, in order for the site to be health, safety and risk compliant and for precautions to be “reasonable” in the case of liability, it may be necessary to create method statements. Method statements are used to help outline the planning and to control specific areas of risk. Where this is necessary, the fact that there is a method statement can be recorded on the risk assessment template with the relevant personnel’s details and review date also recorded. The method statement can then be appended to the risk assessment, to form part of the whole document.

5) Review the risk

Finally, as with the work itself, the risk assessment document is subject to regular and rigorous review, as many risk factors may change in priority across phases of work. To be fully effective, review should not take place by one person in isolation, but in consultation with others involved in the project, so that their professional expertise continues to inform on the level of risk and measurements required to manage this effectively.

Disclaimer:

As construction industry protocols and issues of health and safety are under constant review and update, all information articles and resources provided by SafeSite Facilities are for guidance only.

In all cases, when undertaking risk assessment for your construction site, further information, resources and latest health and safety legislative requirements are available from the HSE website. It is also recommended that appropriate legal and professional advice should always be sought to ensure your construction site is fully compliant and appropriately managed across all aspects of construction site safety.

Contact SafeSite Facilities for advice on construction site security and a free quote.