UCL Department of Geography


Introduction to Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a careful examination of potential harm in the workplace, with the aim of identifying and minimising risks through appropriate control measures, and it is required by law.

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of anything that may cause harm to you or others during the course of your work. Once this is done, you will then be able to decide upon the most appropriate action to take to minimize the likelihood of anyone being hurt. The aim is to prevent accident and illness. It is carried out by identifying risk and using appropriate control measures to minimize or eliminate the risk. Risk Assessment of all activities is required by Law.

It is also important to consider "environmental risks" - Will the proposed work have any impact on the environment?


A hazard is anything that may cause harm. Although they may not cause harm in one form, there is always a "what if....?". Glass bottles can be considered a hazard. Normally they are fairly harmless - what if they are dropped? Electricity is a hazard; whilst properly contained it is safe, what if...? To make life a little easier, for the templates provided for the Geography Department on RiskNet, we have divided the hazards into groups which are then sub-divided. Not all the areas will be relevant to your work, but do not dismiss them without looking - you may find a hazard that you hadn't thought of.


The risk is essentially the likelihood of something happening. What if the glass bottle is dropped? - there is a risk that someone could be cut. Is the risk high, medium or low?  Can we minimize the risk using a suitable control measure?

Control Measures

Often the best control measures will start with the words DO NOT . Do not use a glass bottle. This will eliminate the risk altogether. However, there are times when "do not" is not applicable. (All field work risks can be eliminated by the phrase - do not do field work - not very practical advice.) You then aim to reduce the risk. Ensure the bottle is packed in a box with enough packing material around it to prevent it from breaking; wear protective gloves when handling. The risk of cutting yourself on the bottle is reduced.

Example of a Risk Assessment

The Risk Assessment document should include details of the project or task, the personnel involved in the work and those who may be affected by the work,  and a list of hazards that may be encountered. Under each of the main hazard headings, include sub-categories - for example, environmental hazards can include the weather and the location  - and then list the associated control measures. There will often be more than one control measure needed to reduce the risks. Once the control measures have been decided upon, indicate whether the risk has been sufficiently reduced using these controls. The aim is to reduce all risks to LOW/insignificant by applying these controls. If risks of injury/failure are still high, it is unlikely that the task/project will be allowed to continue.


It is the responsibility of the supervisors to make sure that those carrying out the work are instructed and trained to do so using the control measures identified in the risk assessment. They should directly supervise those with the least experience until they are deemed to be competent to carry out the work unsupervised. Those carrying out the work must co-operate with their supervisor by following the instructions they have been given.