Risk Assessment Guidance

Risk Assessment and Ofsted

  • The Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage state:

    3.65. Providers must ensure that they take all reasonable steps to ensure staff and children in their care are not exposed to risks and must be able to demonstrate how they are managing risks (63). Providers must determine where it is helpful to make some written risk assessments in relation to specific issues, to inform staff practice, and to demonstrate how they are managing risks if asked by parents and/or carers or inspectors. Risk assessments should identify aspects of the environment that need to be checked on a regular basis, when and by whom those aspects will be checked, and how the risk will be removed or minimised.

    EYFS Welfare Requirement Links;

    • Safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare
    • Documentation
    • Organisation
    Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage
    3 . Summary About this statutory framework This framework is mandatory for all early years providers in England from 1 September 2021. 1. Ofsted and inspectorates of independent schools have regard to the Early Years

    (63) Guidance on risk assessments, including where written ones may be required where five or more staff are employed, can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive

    Managing risks and risk assessment at work – Overview -HSE
    1. Overview. As an employer, you're required by law to protect your employees, and others, from harm. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum you must do is:

What is Risk Assessment?

The definition of hazard and risk are:

A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm or ill health. This can include items, substances, plants, machinery, methods of working, the environment and other aspects of the work organisation.

A risk is the likelihood that harm will arise from the hazard. Risks can come from accidents, uncertainty in the financial market, project failures, legal liabilities, natural causes and disasters as well as deliberate attacks.


What is risk assessment?

Risk assessment is careful examination by looking at your provision and assessing what may cause possible risks / harm to staff, children and anyone visiting your childcare provision.

Risk management is the:

  • identification
  • assessment
  • prioritization of any risk followed by the coordination and application of resources to
  • minimize
  • monitor
  • control to weigh up whether enough precautions are in place or more needs to be done to prevent harm.


Why is it important?

It is important to identify where people might be at risk and what of, and look at what precautions can be put in place to prevent these occurrences. Risk assessment is an important part of ensuring the safety of yourself and others on the premises and to avoid accidents and injuries occurring.

What needs to be risk assessed?

All areas of the building will need to be assessed to identify all possible occurrences that pose any risk to any person. (This includes all aspects indoor and outdoor areas). Any visits and outings should be risk assessed in advance to ensure they are not a high risk to those attending.

Who should complete risk assessments?

Risk assessments should always be carried out by a person who is experienced and competent to do so. Competence can be expressed as a combination of knowledge, awareness, training and experience.

If necessary consult a more experienced member of staff or seek external professional help to assist with the risk assessment. Remember competence does not mean you have to know everything about everything, competence also means knowing when you should call in further expert help.

When should risk assessments be carried out?

Risk assessments should be carried out on a continuously basis. For specific areas which are not constantly changing, it is possible to put a risk assessment in place, and review this assessment every year, unless a significant change occurs and then it will need to be reviewed sooner. Daily checklists should be carried out on the indoor and outdoor areas to ensure they are safe before use. These should monitor any occurrences and ensure that any risks identified are dealt with immediately.

How to evaluate the risks?

  • Identify the hazards
  • Identify those at risk
  • Identify existing control measures
  • Evaluate the risk and record
  • Decide / implement control measures
  • Record assessment
  • Monitor and review
  • Inform management

Identify the hazards

First of all you need to identify what the hazards are. You can identify hazards by:

  • Observation
  • Experience
  • Talk to those carrying out the job
  • Look at records: accident book, sickness / ill health absenteeism and near misses
  • Instruction manuals
  • Data sheets: COSHH

Then walk around your setting and note down what you think may be a risk. Concentrate on looking at things that could cause harm or could affect a number of people, for example slipping and tripping hazards from poorly maintained flooring or fire hazards from flammable materials.

Identify those at risk

Look at the people that could be affected by each of the risks, is it the:

  • children
  • staff
  • parents
  • member of the public
  • trades person
  • someone else?

List all the different people that could be affected.

Identify Existing Control Measures

Look at what precautions are already in place- is there enough being done to minimise the risk or could more be done? Using this information decide if the risk is high, medium or low. If it is a medium or high risk, look at what further precautions could be put in place. Note these actions down and assess the risk again.

Evaluate the Risk


Can I get rid of the hazard altogether?

If not, how can I control the risk so that harm is unlikely?

Use the chart below to identify the “residual risk” either lowmedium or high. If the residual risk is medium to high then you must do something to lower risk.


Decide / Implement Control Measures

If the risk is not adequately controlled decide which new control procedures are required and implement them. To control risk apply the following principles:

  • Remove the risk
  • Try a less risky option (switch to a less hazardous chemical)
  • Prevent access to the hazard (buy a guard)
  • Organise work to reduce exposure to the hazard (produce rules to ensure safe use)
  • Provide information, instruction, training and supervision. (warn people of the hazards, tell, show and help them.)
  • Issue personal protective equipment ( clothing, footwear, gloves)
  • Provide welfare facilities (first aid and washing facilities for removal of contamination)

Be sure that what you propose to do will work in practice and won’t introduce any new hazards.

After you have implemented the new control procedures, re-rank the risk to determine the new residual risk. You should aim to get the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable until it is at a tolerable level.


Record Assessment

Write down the results of your risk assessment and share them with your staff team or family if you are a childminder. Keep copies of the assessment for your record and for inspection and or insurance purposes:

  • Ofsted
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Local Authority
  • Insurer

Monitor and review

You must ensure that the control measures are achieving the desired level of control. You must review the assessment on a regular basis or if anything changes for example new staff or equipment, pregnant staff)

Ask yourself:

  • Have there been any changes?
  • Are there improvements you still need to make?
  • Has your staff spotted a problem?
  • Have you learnt anything from accidents or near misses?

Remember to keep your risk assessments up to date and set a review date. Put it in your diary as an annual event.



You have a legal duty to relay the findings of the assessment to everyone who is affected by it. You must also provide information to the workforce on any new control measure implemented, any emergency procedures that have been developed and their duties as employees.


Ask a few people to check your risk assessment as other people may spot something that you have missed. Start a register of risk assessments so that you can find them quickly if needed.

Relevant Legislation

According to section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers have a duty to ensure that so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare of all employees is looked after.

The Act also requires that employers of five or more employees have a written statement of their health and safety policy and that this is along with any revisions communicated to the staff.

There are specific laws that ensure the safety of the child as well as that of the practitioner. The legislation relevant to health and safety in a childcare setting is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) and the Children Act 1989.

HASAWA applies to all workplaces, including restaurants, shops etc. It was designed to protect employees in the workplace and applies to settings with 5 or more employees. The act specifies duties that employers and employees must fulfil. It states that all employees must follow the setting's health and safety procedures and use the safety equipment provided.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) requires employers to assess the risks of activities, introduce measures to control those risks and tell their employees about these measures. Appoint one or more competent person to help and advise on health and safety matters.

Health and safety of pupils on Educational Visits. (DFES 1998, supplemented 2002)

The reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995

The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as “reasonably practicable”

Failure to comply with Health and Safety Law can result in heavy fines or imprisonment.

In the event of an accident, will I be held personally liable if I got the risk assessment wrong?

There are inevitably concerns regarding personal liabilities especially in relation to getting a risk assessment 'wrong'. The following points should provide reassurance:

  • Risk Assessment should involve those at risk. (The more people consulted the fewer hazards that will be missed).
  • Report upwards if worried
  • Seek advice if it's a technical matter
  • You cannot be held responsible for an event that was not "reasonably foreseeable".
  • Act within your training/instructions.
  • Prosecutions are rare for individuals. Staff act as an instrument of their employer and the concept of vicarious liability applies. With regard to a criminal prosecution, should there be shortcomings, staff are highly unlikely to be individually prosecuted, since their defence might be that they had not been adequately trained by their employer. With regard to a civil action, the same holds true with the addition that where monetary recompense is being sought, individuals have far less money than their employer, who will therefore be the more likely target.

Could I avoid any personal liability by not signing risk assessments?

- Any individual prosecution is more likely to result from doing/not doing/being in charge of something that, on the facts, was obviously irresponsible.

- However, while the piece of paper can't make the facts any worse, it just might limit your penalty by demonstrating that effort had been put into place to try and get it right. Whereas, if the facts look bad, not having that signed bit of paper will ensure a conviction.

- Ensure written risk assessments are issued to those involved. In 1995, a lecturer was prosecuted because his risk assessment was only verbally delivered to a student who was subsequently involved in an accident and later swore that the instruction was not given.

Non Compliance

The penalties for failing to carry out risk assessments can be strict, The Health & Safety Executive can issue improvement or prohibition notices, this is likely to happen where a Health and Safety inspector find a situation with the potential to cause harm, for example an unguarded machine. If you are prosecuted and found guilty for more serious breeches i.e. one of your staff has been seriously injured, then in the magistrate court you can be fined up to £20,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months, in Crown court fines are unlimited and prison sentences can be up to 2 years. The lack of suitable risk assessments will weigh heavily against you.

A nursery in Surrey, was prosecuted after a child with allergies was taken to hospital after being fed a meal containing nuts. This happened on the 20th October 2015. The parents had informed the nursery of their child’s nut allergy on more than one occasion and an investigation by the council’s Environmental Health officers found health and safety training for staff at the nursery was inadequate. The nursery gave the child a meal made from pesto, which contained nuts, after there were no nut-free meals in the freezer. A member of staff bought the pesto, assuming it was nut free. Despite being aware of the child’s allergies, none of the staff checked the label which clearly stated the pesto contained cashew nuts. The child was taken to hospital in an ambulance, with breathing issues, swelling of the ears, hands and arms and covered hives. The nursery was charged for exposing the child to a health and safety risk, fined £10,000 and ordered to pay Waverley Borough Council’s costs of £4500 and a victim surcharge of £120.

You can find many more prosecutions like this on the internet.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

For straightforward guidance on how to comply with the law, we refer you to  Health and safety made simple on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).



Look at what precautions are already in place, is enough being done to minimise risk or could more be done? Use this information to decide if the risk is high, medium or low. If it is a medium or high risk, consider further precautions that could be put in place, note these, take action and review the risk again until the level is low.

Examples of areas to be risk assessed: 

These have been listed alphabetically and are a general guide of areas to consider, but are not an exhaustive list and may differ for different provision.

Access points in and out of the building

Consider– door locks, entry systems, key holders, security passwords, door bell, Collection of child – risk of a stranger trying to collect the child

Access to equipment

Consider – height of storage facilities, weight of equipment, tidiness, suitability of shelves and cupboards. What you store such as knives and harmful products. Christmas tree cables and glass baubles


Consider – specific allergies, access to medication, allergy free zones, cross contamination

Causes of fire Consider – possible sources, fire exits, fire evacuation procedures and practices


Consider – fingers being trapped, height of door handles

Electrical equipment

Consider – loose cables, Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) testing, socket covers, cables trailing, height of equipment, storage of equipment, where it is used

High cupboards, shelves, pegs, display boards, furniture and mirrors

Consider – falling objects, over reaching, heavy objects, top-heavy storage

Fire prevention and control equipment

Consider - appropriate equipment, location, testing, replacement

Floor surfaces (carpets, rugs and tiles) 

Consider – uneven surfaces, slippery surfaces, loose surfaces, trip hazards, steps, warning signs, people with visual or physical disability or impairment

Food preparation areas

Consider – cleanliness, hand washing facilities, equipment. Follow Safer Food Better Business guidance (SFBB) Separate hand-wash sink, different coloured cloths and copping boards.

Food storage facilities

Consider – fridges, freezers, cupboards, expiry date monitoring, raw meats, and cooked meats, fresh produce, staff training in food hygiene practices and the storage of packed lunches.

The garden

Plants (see the document here), Toys large and small, furniture, gates etc

Storage of Cleaning Equipment

Mops, buckets, cloths and cleaning products (storage and use)


Consider – appropriate temperature levels, keeping the temperature constant, arrangements if heating breaks down, sources of heat, air-conditioning systems and fire guards.

Hot surfaces

Consider – radiators, radiator covers, cookers, microwaves, heaters, hot drinks, exposed pipes.

Lifting and handling

Consider – weight, height, training for staff, equipment, children.

Light sources

Consider – natural and manmade light sources, level of light/shade available.

Nappy changing/bodily fluids

Consider - cleanliness, protective clothing for staff, hand washing, position of changing tables, height of changing tables, weight of children, odours, disposal of nappies and/or soiled clothing.

Outdoor play areas

Consider – equipment, gates, fences and hedges, walls, pathways, decking, patios, broken glass, harmful plants and fungi, animals, animal faeces, water sources, surfaces e.g. gravel, woodchip, bark animals, sheds and greenhouses.


Consider – roads, vehicles, pathways, water sources, hedges, fences, walls, steps, weather conditions, people, car parks, transport methods and animals.

Play environments

Consider –  trip hazards, small parts, sharp objects, broken equipment, cleanliness, dust, noise and floor surfaces.


All pets such as Cats - infections such as worms can spread to children

Sand and water

Consider – cleaning, covers, toys, height, access to

Sleeping children

Consider – sleep checks, equipment, bedding, comforters, temperature, light, noise, location of the sleep area and access.

Storage of cleaning products, equipment, matches and medication 

Consider – cupboard locks, cupboard height, areas away from children

Toilet areas

Consider – cleanliness, wet floors, hand washing/drying, toilet paper, flushing toilets, protective clothing for staff.

Water sources

Consider – temperature of tap water, sources of drinking water, cleanliness


Hot and cold weather – risk of burns


Consider – height, safety glass, opening width, locks, fire/emergency (key placement), blinds and cords, curtains poles and rails.

Vehicles and transport

Consider - Driving licence, insurance checks, suitability of seats and restraints, air bags, emergency equipment, breakdown procedures, MOT and check if roadworthy.

All providers are advised to carry out risk assessments of their provision and must include all aspects of the environment including premises, resources and activities as part the statutory requirements of the EYFS framework.

A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what, in your setting, could cause harm so that you can decide whether you have taken enough precautions to minimise risk and help avoid accidents and injury.


Annual and Daily Risk Assessments

To include information on;

  • What could cause harm and who to
  • Checking and following manufacturer instructions for use of equipment and resources
  • Regularly reviewing accident records and using these to inform risk assessments
  • Identifying potential hazards
  • Evaluating risks
  • Identifying areas for development and recording action taken and/or precautions to be included

Other documentation to consider:

  • Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) information
  • Risk assessment template (next page)
  • Records of accidents and incidents
  • Records of concerns identified
  • Records of complaints
  • Staff comments/staff meeting notes
  • Ofsted inspection report, particularly actions identified
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