Deans of College / Directors of Services

Risk Assessments

As a starting point, each College and Professional Service should have their own overview (College/Services) risk assessment that considers their controls for a suit of University policies and general legislative requirements. This overview risk assessment will also highlight where more detailed assessments are required, for example laboratories and field work type activities.

Risk assessments are critical to understanding and managing risk, they are also a legislative must. Your overview risk assessment must be reviewed regularly and be treated as a live document, changing as actions are completed and as new information comes to light on controls and risk.

Further information on the principles of risk assessment are provides below:

What is Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment is nothing more than a careful examination 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.

Why is risk assessment important?

Managing health and safety risks puts you in control since it leaves your College / Services less open to chance. A risk assessment helps to prevent accidents and ill health to you, your staff, students and members of the public. Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and harm your College/Service too if morale is lost, equipment is damaged, insurance costs increase, students don't enrol or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess the risks in your workplace so that you can put in place a plan to control the risks.

What is a hazard?

A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm e.g. the absence of a guard rail on scaffolding or dealing with volatile members of the public.

What is risk?

A risk is the likelihood that a hazard will cause a specified harm to someone or something e.g. if the guard rail is missing it is likely that a construction worker will fall off the scaffolding and break a bone, and where the member of the public decides to physically attack a researcher.  

What is risk management?

Risk Management is a process that involves assessing the risks that arise in your workplace, putting sensible health and safety measures in place to control them and then making sure they work in practice.

So how do I undertake a risk assessment?

The University guidance on undertaking risk assessments provides simple and easy to follow advice on how to undertake a basic risk assessment.

Further advice can be obtained from the HSE risk management website and examples of risk assessments are also provided on this site.

Training courses are available through Health and Safety Services for you and your staff on how to undertake a risk assessment. Occasionally external specialists will be required to assist in producing a risk assessment because of the uniqueness of the hazard or activity.

Please just contact central H&S staff who will readily help you through the process of undertaking bot detailed and overview risk assessments; please just call us on 3847 or email

What do "ALARP" and "SFAIRP" mean?

You may come across these abbreviations. ALARP stands for "as low as reasonably practicable" and SFAIRP stands for "so far as is reasonably practicable". In essence, these are the same; however, SFAIRP is the term most often used in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and in Regulations, and; ALARP is the term used by risk practitioners.

What does "reasonably practicable" mean?

This means that you have to take action to control the health and safety risks in your workplace except where the cost (in terms of time and effort as well as money) of doing so is "grossly disproportionate" to the reduction in the risk. You can work this out for yourself, or you can simply apply accepted good practice.