Risk Assessment

First Aid can be a risky business. There's a need to check for danger to keep all concerned safe. Here's an overview of the Risk Assessment process. (Reading time around 6 minutes)
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Table of Contents


The ability to conduct a risk assessment for First Aid is critical. DRSABCD is our initial action plan and the first letter is D. D for DANGER.

If you can:

      A. Identify any HAZARDS,

      B. Recognise the RISKS,


     C. Implement control measures,

you can make First Aid, and the spaces you work, live and play in, a lot safer for everyone.

In this article, I am going to explain the difference between a hazard and a risk, discuss how to conduct a risk assessment for first aid and, talk about control measures.

Risk assessment – a step by step process

To help manage risks in the workplace there is a step-by-step process you can follow.

By thinking about what could go wrong and what the consequences could be, you can then do whatever is ‘reasonably practicable ‘ to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks.

What is a hazard?

A hazard is something that poses a threat to life, health, property, or even the environment.

For example, you have a beautiful, inviting, swimming pool in your backyard. It’s a hot day and you want to go for a swim. You stand on the edge of the pool, ready to dive in. There’s just one problem. In the pool is a whopping Great White shark!

However, it’s so hot, you really, REALLY… need to dive in.

In this scenario, the shark is the hazard. A hazard that, should you dive in, poses a threat to your health or even your life.

What is a risk?

A risk is a chance (big or small) that a hazard could hurt or damage someone or something.

In our shark in the pool scenario, it is obvious that if you dived in there is a huge likelihood the shark will attack you and cause major damage to your body.

These are the risks – Torn off limbs. Chunks bitten from your torso. Severe blood loss. Death. ( Maybe it’s not that hot after all? ) Not to mention all that flesh and bone clogging up the pool filter.

So, it follows, understanding the difference between a hazard and a risk is important so you can properly plan your risk management strategy.

Step by step process

This process is known as risk management and involves four steps

1. Identify hazards—find out what could cause harm.

2. Assess risks – if necessary—understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.

3. Control risks – implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances and ensure it is still effective over time.

4. Review – hazards and control measures to ensure they are working as planned

Step 1 – Identify the hazard

By walking around your home or workplace, with a checklist, you can identify any hazards. Don’t forget, A hazard is anything that could cause harm or have a negative impact.

Things like broken or dangerous equipment, a poorly written procedures or bad practices. Staff not well trained for the workplace or equipment. Clutter and rubbish around the home or office, restricting movement and creating a fire hazard. A shark in the pool.

Step 2 – Assess the risks

Now that you have identified the hazard you need to assess the risk of harm or potential harm and also,

•  How likely is it to happen?

•  How serious is the outcome? What are the consequences?

Let’s look at our shark in the pool. What is the potential harm? I listed them above. What’s the probability of it happening? That is, how likely is that to happen? Could be almost certain if you dive in.

Therefore, when you are assessing the risks, you can rate the Probability Question By using:

Unlikely, Possible, Likely and Almost Certain.

Next, how serious are the consequences? These will fall into three categories.

  1. MINOR RISK – unlikely to cause long-term problems so you accept the risk and continue.
  2. MODERATE RISK – where you complete a risk assessment and go ahead if risk is worth  accepting
  3. SIGNIFICANT RISK – this is a risk that needs careful planning and consideration before going ahead. Involving others in decision-making, following policy guidance and practice, and identifying roles and responsibilities.

You can now evaluate the risks even further by combining the PROBABILITY results, with the SEVERITY of the risk.

For example, with our Shark (Hazard) in the pool, you find that it is Unlikely (Probability) you will go for a swim, then it would be of minor consequences (Seriousness), therefore the risk is a Low Priority for management – which is the lowest priority.

On the other end of the scale, if you found that the probability of you diving in is Almost Certain then that is a Significant Risk, with extreme consequences, requiring urgent priority for management.

Consequences for risk management are rated – Low, Moderate, High and Significant.

Step 3 – Control the Risks

Once you have identified the Severity of the risk and the consequences, you need to implement some control measure.

Controls are actions you can take to manage and reduce the risk.

There is a Hierarchy of Control, made up of different levels and control methods for us to follow.

They are

Level 1 – Elimination.

  • That is, remove the hazard.

Level 2 – Substitution,

  • Replace the hazardous item or process.
  • Isolation, separate people from the hazard.
  • Engineering, replace equipment with a more ergonomic style.

Level 3 – Administrative

  • Change procedures or rosters.
  • Use PPE to minimise risk.

Step 4 – Review

Reviewing and ongoing monitoring of the risk or potential harm is needed to ensure it continues to be managed as a low risk.

Throughout this process, you need to be vigilant in scanning and assessing any risk.

This can be done with safety checks, regular WHS inspections, and making it a regular topic at team meetings.

We can put these all together using our example of the shark in the pool.  You found that it was a significant risk with extreme consequences. But, you can use the top level of control here which is the elimination of the risk by removing the shark.  This reduces the risk to low priority, minor consequences, unlikely to happen.

While it sounds like a complicated process it’s not. When you think about it, keeping your first aid activities or workplace safe is just a matter of being vigilant and acting if you see something unsafe or likely to cause harm.

Most businesses and organisations will have a risk assessment matrix which simplifies the risk assessment process to make it easier for you.


The main points to remember are:

• A hazard is something that poses a threat to life, health, property, or even the environment

• A risk is the chance – big or small – that a hazard could hurt or damage someone or something.

• Use a Risk Assessment Matrix to determine the likelihood and consequence of hazards and risks. You can find a free Risk Assessment Matrix here. (Thanks to the Dept. of Education and Training)

Don’t forget to keep your First Aid Certificate current. ( Blog ” How long does a First Aid Certificate last”) This will eliminate the risk of your being an untrained workplace first aider.

Well, that’s that. Until next time… Stay safe.


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Adrian Webb

Adrian joined Life Saving First Aid in 2019 following a 30-year career with the Airport Fire and Rescue Service, where he responded to numerous first aid calls and dangerous or hazardous incidents, keeping the airport community safe.

Since joining Life Saving First Aid, he has delivered First Aid training to over 20,000 students. Many of them have used this training to save a life!

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