Risk Assessment Policy

Updated on 11 May 2012

How the University uses risk assessment to reduce injuries and ill health.

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The University of Dundee acknowledges that risk assessment forms the basis of practicable methods of reducing injuries and ill health, and it is committed to promoting the thorough use of this methodology in all activities under its control. The University recognises that suitable and sufficient assessments of significant risks are required by legislation and that these must be regularly reviewed and updated. Therefore, staff will be trained to undertake risk assessments appropriate to their position and type of work.


Deans or Directors are responsible for ensuring suitable and sufficient risk assessments are carried out for all activities under their control. Usually, they delegate this task to the member of staff undertaking the activity with input from their School/Support Service Safety Representative. A suitable risk assessment form and guidance is available on the Safety Services Sharepoint website. Specialised and higher risk activities may require input and advice from Safety Services or specialists in a particular field.

All activities incurring a risk of injury or ill-health above the level of risk prevalent in daily living require assessment. Where that assessment identifies that such a risk is significant the risk assessment must be recorded and the outcomes brought to the attention of all people who may be affected by that activity. The risk assessment will take account of existing control measures, and where these are not sufficient to reduce the overall risk to an acceptable level, other control measures must be implemented.

In all cases a hierarchy of risk reduction measures should be adopted starting with avoiding the risky activity altogether, changing the activity to reduce risk, isolating the risk process, reducing the length or quality of exposure to the risk, reducing the number of people exposed to risk, or as a last resort using personal protective equipment.                                                                                                                       

Risk assessments must be reviewed and updated immediately after:

  • an accident, incident. or near-miss
  • if suspected to be incorrect
  • a complaint
  • change in activity
  • or upon new information

In addition, they must be reviewed and updated annually.

Safety Services will provide training on risk assessment to School or Support Service  Safety Representatives or Co-ordinators and other staff so that they can undertake the assessment of routine risks, and will provide help and support with more complex issues upon request. A risk assessment form is available on the Safety Services Sharepoint website.

All risk assessments must be retained for five years and be available for inspection by Health and Safety Executive Inspectors, Safety Services, Insurance Surveyors, and others who have reasonable grounds for seeing these.

Guidance note

We all do risk assessments every day as we cross roads, travel to work, or decide whether to take waterproofs with us or not.  Risk assessment is not the reserve of risk or safety professionals and legislation never intended it to be.  Everyone can carry out general risk assessments by following this guidance and the will to do it thoroughly.

Essentially, a risk assessment is a decision-making process that involves a careful and systematic investigation of what, in your work, could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.  It involves the following steps:

  1. Finding out what could cause injury/ill health to people either doing the activity or being affected by it (i.e. identifying hazards). When identifying hazards (which usually involves observing the people carrying out the activity) make sure you know about the various types of harm that can occur, for example, a chemical may be poisonous but may also be very flammable.
  2. Thinking about who could be affected and how.  Work out the different ways people could be harmed and how seriously, that is assess the risks or bad outcomes – for example, a spill of diesel gives a fire risk, but it also makes the ground slippery for anyone walking on it, so burns and slipping/falling injuries are both possible.  Remember to think about everyone who could be affected and not just the people carrying out the work e.g. cleaners, maintenance staff, and visitors-both expected and unexpected.
  3. Consider what, if anything, is already being done to prevent injury/ill health from happening.  Usually, there are some safety measures in place, even if it is just a warning sign or simple barrier to keep people away from the hazard or dangerous activity.
  4. Weigh up whether it is reasonable to do more to prevent or reduce the risk of injury/ill health, and if it is tell someone what to do and by when.  When making this decision it is helpful to consider available guidance and refer to best practice, as well as discussing with colleagues to gain several points of view of what is reasonable.
  5. Write down the significant risks you have identified and what you are doing to control them.  It is essential that you discuss or bring the key findings to the attention of people affected by the activity.
  6. Make sure you review the assessment in the light of any changes or new information that comes to light, and at least annually to check your decision remains valid.
  7. Ask your Safety Representative for advice if you are unsure, and if necessary they will contact Safety Services for advice.

When taking action to prevent injury or ill health the following hierarchy of controls should be considered:

  • Can the hazard be removed altogether? Has the way of doing the task changed?
  • Can the hazard be replaced by something less hazardous?
  • Can people be kept apart from the hazard i.e. they are not exposed to it? e.g. enclosure of process or distance guarding
  • Can the hazard be controlled or reduced? e.g. use smaller quantities, ventilation for fumes
  • Can the exposure of people to the hazard be reduced? e.g. limited time or staff access
  • Can personal protective equipment and training reduce risk?
  • Are there remedial measures that can be taken after harm has occurred? e.g. quickly accessible washing facilities

When deciding if more can reasonably be done to prevent injury or ill health you can consider the cost (money, time or disruption) but the decision-making process is not one of balancing the costs and benefits of measures but, rather, of adopting measures except where they are ruled out because they involve grossly disproportionate sacrifices e.g. not carrying out the activity, purchasing expensive machinery to automate the task or refurbishing a facility.

And finally, remember the standard is one of reasonableness and not perfection.

Document information

Document name Risk assessment
Policy number 11/2002 (Rev. 2012)


Corporate information category Health and safety