Inherent and Residual Risks

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, which came into effect on 4th April 2016, assessing risk requires us to weigh:

  • a) the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring; and
  • (b) the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk.

We then take reasonably practicable steps to control this risk (see Such a process leaves us with two values: the value of the risk before we take the steps, and the value after. 

In health and safety, as in accounting and I.T., these two values are often called inherent (or initial) and residual (or current) risks. You may have your own template for calculating these, but if not you are welcome to use ours here. So: which value is recorded in the hazard register? We suggest both. This shows the practical importance of controls AND allows you to recalculate, should these controls fail or prove insufficient.

To reduce any confusion, you might like to use the expression ‘current risk’ instead of ‘residual risk’. People need to understand this is the key value to consider as they go about their work.

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