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Last edited 24 Oct 2020
Risk assessment for construction
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM Regulations) are intended to ensure that health and safety issues are properly considered during a project’s development so that the risk of harm to those who build, use and maintain structures is reduced.
They require that as the design progresses, risks are identified and eliminated and residual risks are reduced and managed and that designers, principal designers, principal contractors and contractors take account of the 'principles of prevention' in carrying out their duties, which in general terms are:
(a) Avoid risks where possible.
(b) Evaluate those risks that cannot be avoided.
Whilst the specific process of preparing a formal risk assessment is not a requirement of the CDM regulations, regulation 3(6)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations does require that risks are controlled in the workplace, including construction sites. This involves thinking about what might cause harm to people and deciding what steps to take to prevent that harm. This is known as risk assessment and might include:
- General assessments of health and safety risks to which employees and others are exposed on construction sites.
- Specific assessments for specific hazards such as: work at height; hazardous substances (COSHH); manual handling; noise; vibration and lead.
On construction projects, this may relate not only to the construction of the works, but also to temporary works and to the operation, maintenance, cleaning, alteration or demolition of the completed development. It may also relate to inherent risks in the site or its surroundings.
It is not necessary to be a health and safety expert to write a risk assessment, simply a ‘competent person’, which according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is ‘someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge’.
- Identify the hazards.
- Decide who might be harmed and how.
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.
- Record significant findings.
- Review the assessment and update if necessary.
Information produced as a consequence of a risk assessment might be included in tender documents so that designers, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers can take them into account when pricing their tenders and planning their work. Ultimately, it may, where relevant, be included in the health and safety file. However, as the CDM regulations require that designers and contractors are competent persons, information about risks need only be provided in relation to unusual risks or risks that are difficult to effectively manage.
Method statements are widely used in construction as a means of controlling specific health and safety risks that have been identified (perhaps following the preparation of a risk assessment) such as; lifting operations, demolition or dismantling, working at height (such as work on roofs), installing equipment, and the use of plant. A method statement helps manage the work and ensures that the necessary precautions have been communicated to those involved.
Together, risk assessments and method statements are sometimes described as 'RAMS'. RAMS may be required by third parties to demonstrate that health and safety has been properly considered and that the requirements of the CDM regulations have been satisfied.
For example, a contractor may require submission of RAMS form sub-contractors, a landlord may require submission of RAMS from tenants proposing to carry out works to a property, or a client may require submission of RAMS from contractors operating on their premises.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP).
- Construction health risks.
- Construction phase plan.
- Deleterious materials.
- Health and safety.
- How to write a method statement.
- Innovation - the key to success.
- Interface risk in construction.
- Manual handling assessment chart.
- Method statements.
- Near miss.
- Permit to work.
- Pre-construction information.
- Principal contractor.
- Principal designer.
- Principles of prevention.
- Project risk.
- Risk assessments and method statements.
- Risk assessment under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
- Risk management.
- Safety audit.
- Slip and trip hazards.
- What is a hazard?
 External references
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