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Hazard Identification Risk Assessment

there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to identify and manage hazards

When it comes to risk management, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to identify and manage hazards. The chosen assessment method should align with the desired output based on the stage at which the assessment is undertaken. It is essential to start risk management and risk assessment processes as early as possible.

HIRA Purpose

HIRA is a qualitative tool use to evaluate potential hazards associated with specific tasks or activities. Employing consequence and probability scales, this tool facilitates the assignment of a risk value to each hazard, ensuring that the activity aligns with acceptable risk levels.

Probability, indicating the likelihood of a hazard event occurring, and Consequence, reflecting the impact of the hazard event, are key factors considered in this assessment. Once a hazard is identified, strategic control measures are implemented to effectively mitigate the probability and/or consequence of the hazard becoming a reality.

Controls follow a hierarchy and prioritise actions in the sequence shown below.

HIRA can be applied independently as a single risk assessment method for various activities or integrated into a risk assessment hierarchy following methodologies like HAZID or HAZOP.

HIRA is best suited for the latter stages of work or project development when operational activities are imminent. However, its versatility allows for application in earlier stages if a qualitative evaluation is necessary. Furthermore, HIRA proves invaluable for assessing existing processes post-change or incident occurrence.

It’s important to recognize that HIRA may not be suitable when procedural changes are anticipated. In such cases, where identified hazards and control measures necessitate procedural adjustments, other methodologies might be more appropriate. HIRA is tailored to be effectively managed at an operational level within the worksite, ensuring comprehensive hazard management throughout the project lifecycle.

HIRA Scope

HIRA focuses on groups or sequences of operations that combine to create a process rather than stand-alone activities. If you are assessing a specific stand-alone activity, then consider Task Risk Assessment.

Identification and qualification of hazards is the objective, with equal attention given to identification of control measures to reduce risk values to acceptable levels, allowing work to commence.

Control measures that can be implemented locally should take preference. If more significant control measures are required that result in re-engineering or procedural change they must be noted and implemented prior to the activity commencing.

All activities/tasks, associated hazards, qualitative assessment, and control measures must be recorded into an agreed HIRA worksheet.

HIRA Output

HIRA provides a detailed qualitative risk assessment. Defined risk acceptance levels are used to determine if it is acceptable to undertake each activity/task noted in the worksheet based on the control measures.

HIRA is unlikely to result in procedural change and more likely to identify localised control measures that need to be applied prior to work commencing.

If individual elements of the workscope require more focussed and detailed assessment, then carry that forward to Task Risk Assessment.

HIRA Format

HIRA should be recorded into a tabular worksheet using predefined headings. HIRA can be worked on by any number of people, having a worksheet that is accessible and easy to edit is important.

The HIRA worksheet should be formatted to follow a simple 5x step process:

  • Identify the hazard.
  • Decide who might be harmed and how.
  • Evaluate the risk and decide whether existing control measures are adequate or if more should be done.
  • Record your findings.
  • Review and re-asses as required.

It is critical to have an agreed Risk Classification Matrix which clearly defines the levels for consequence, probability, and the ‘at risk’ categories. The Risk Classification Matrix should be used to assign a risk value (generally low, medium, or high) following the selection of consequence and probability. The risk value should be defined by Risk Acceptance Levels (what is low, medium, or high and what is acceptable). Control measures (existing or proposed) need to be documented and the risk value re-assessed after the implementation of the control measure to see if the risk acceptance level has changed to a more acceptable level.

The Risk Classification Matrix should be included with the HIRA worksheet for ongoing assessment as required and to enable those who use the assessment to understand the values selected in the worksheet.

The responsible party should be noted, and the status of the action marked as Open or Closed. The status can be marked as Ongoing if the measures noted are to be implemented during the activity or will continue to be managed as the activity progresses.

HIRA – Continual Evaluation

A HIRA worksheet can be worked on at any time as hazard identification and assessment of risk isn’t reliant on a group of attendees. It is recommended to ensure that content added to a HIRA worksheet is reviewed by others to ensure it is accurate and that the control measures are realistic in reducing risk to an acceptable level.

HIRA – Workshop

Preparing the HIRA worksheet in advance of a formal HIRA session is a good way to identify and add content that can be used to discuss and agree with HIRA attendees. This method will save time and remove unnecessary discussion during a workshop. When using this approach, it is important to share the identified content with persons who will be involved in the activities prior to a workshop. Collaboration with all risk assessment methods is important in ensuring you have been thorough with the assessment. Risk assessment is subjective and different people will have different input; collaboration makes assessment stronger.

A HIRA workshop should be conducted with the personnel who will be undertaking the work. For HIRA to be effective the task or activity needs to be clearly defined to enable detailed hazard identification. Control measures should be considered using the control hierarchy.

Additional control measures that have been identified and agreed when reviewing the task or activity during the workshop must also be noted.

Actions from the HIRA should be assigned to specific personnel who have the knowledge and authority to manage and implement the action. Generic content can be utilised but should always be checked for suitability.

HIRA is unlikely to result in significant re-design, engineering, or procedural change. If hazards are identified which require this, they must not be ignored and will require additional discussion with senior personnel. Do not accept using lesser controls if they do not adequately manage the hazard and are not proportionate to the identified risk. If this becomes evident during a HIRA workshop, then take a note, and move on with the session.

HIRA Chair

A HIRA workshop should be chaired by a supervisor who is directly responsible for the work or by a health and safety advisor who is familiar with the process and the work.

The Chair is responsible for ensuring that discussion remains focussed on the scope and for drawing a close to non-productive discussion. It is recommended to have someone assigned to add content to the HIRA worksheet during the session.

HIRA Duration

HIRA should take between 1-4hrs to complete but duration is dictated by the scope of the HIRA. Duration can be reduced if the HIRA worksheet has been prepared in advance of the workshop. If a HIRA session is planned to last longer than 4hrs then a review of the scope should be completed to ensure the session has been structured in an efficient manner.


HIRA attendees should consist of the personnel who will be undertaking the tasks/activities to be assessed. If these numbers are excessive then consider using supervisors with some operatives.

Different experience and risk perception brought in by different personnel and positions in invaluable during HIRA. A good cross section of the workforce will be beneficial. Stating a definitive number of attendees is always difficult but HIRA should limit attendees to circa 15-20 persons. Any more than this can result in lengthy unproductive discussion, difficulty in getting collective agreement and focus shifting from the identified content.

Defining your HIRA Purpose

Clearly define and communicate the purpose of HIRA to everyone involved. Explain why it’s conducted, what work scope is being assessed, and what level of risk is acceptable. This shared understanding ensures alignment among participants, encouraging active contribution and promoting effective collaboration. This clarity enhances decision-making, maximizing the overall success of the HIRA process.

Defining your HIRA Scope

It’s crucial to clearly define the scope and limitations of HIRA. When outlining the scope, consider the following aspects:

  • Starting/baseline conditions that are already in place and won’t be discussed.
  • Content and definitions of the Risk Classification Matrix.
  • Levels of risk acceptance.
  • Details about the HIRA process and general housekeeping rules.
  • Procedures for action logging and the HIRA worksheet.
  • Clear delineation of responsibilities for implementing control measures.

HIRA Report & Tracking

If necessary, a HIRA report should be generated to document the outcome of the HIRA. The report should include the following suggested content:

Attendees: Provide a list of participants who attended the HIRA workshop, including their roles and affiliations.

Agenda: Outline the agenda followed during the HIRA workshop, indicating the activities covered and the timeline.

HIRA Worksheet: Include the HIRA worksheet (updated as required) as an appendix or attachment to the report.

Presentation Material Used: If any presentation materials were utilised during the HIRA workshop, such as slides or visuals, include references or attachments to them in the report.

References to Procedures Utilised: Mention any specific procedures or guidelines that were referenced during the HIRA. This provides context and ensures traceability.

Follow-Up Actions and Closeout: Document the follow-up actions and closure process, including any additional planned HIRA workshops or related activities. This demonstrates the commitment to addressing identified hazards and implementing necessary mitigations.

The HIRA worksheet should be treated as a dynamic document, with content regularly reviewed, updated, and added until the work scope is completed.

The Next Steps

Any changes to the planned workscope may necessitate a review or update of the HIRA to ensure its content remains current. If standalone activities are involved, it is recommended to complete a Task Risk Assessment. For instance, a comprehensive HIRA may cover activities with a winch, frame, rigging arrangement, personnel placement, pull in/payout of an object, and pull force. However, a Task Risk Assessment specific to the winch should be conducted for detailed evaluation of maintenance activities, access, noise, contact with moving parts, etc., aspects that might not be extensively covered in the HIRA. Task Risk Assessment allows for a more detailed examination, addressing each of these points as separate topics.

Prior to operations commencing: Once an operation is defined and understood carry out a HIRA or HIRA review circa 1-4 wks prior to starting with the involved personnel. Allow sufficient time to implement the identified control measures or to address any shortfall.

Retrospective review of existing processes/methods: Utilise HIRA to assess what you already have in place to ensure it is effective and current. Update and implement improvements to activities as planned/unplanned workplace changes occur.

Continual assessment on the suitability of existing activities: HIRA can be used as a tool for continuously assessing the suitability of operational activities and the effectiveness of control measures.

Changes in existing processes/methods or following an incident: HIRA can be conducted as a targeted review of existing processes and methods, especially following incidents or near-misses. HIRA helps identify areas of improvement and ensures that appropriate measures are implemented to prevent future occurrences.

Enhance hazard identification by leveraging the diverse expertise of personnel, drawing upon their comprehensive knowledge and experience related to the planned activities and the equipment in use. This involves scrutiny of operating procedures, method statements, as well as a thorough understanding of known operational activities and parameters.

Hazards are systematically identified, and their potential consequences comprehensively understood. Control measures are collaboratively agreed upon, factoring in evaluations of hazard severity, consequences, and probability. Through group discussions in the HIRA process, additional control measures are agreed upon and documented, capturing all findings. Localized control measures are agreed and implemented. The effectiveness of these measures is verified, ensuring a continuous commitment to safety. This process also provides an opportunity for the revision of procedures and method statements if a safer operating method is identified, contributing to ongoing improvements in operational safety. This approach results in enhanced safety measures, and a secure environment for operational activities.

RISKUL offers a comprehensive suite of risk assessment and risk management tools, comprising five distinct methodologies organised in a hierarchy. The RISKUL HIRA tool incorporates over 40 specific design and functionality features that are exclusive to RISKUL.

In addition to HIRA, RISKUL encompasses other essential risk assessment methods, including HAZID, HAZOP, TRA, and Risk Register. Each methodology provides unique insights and approaches to effectively identify, analyse, and mitigate risks.

We invite you to experience the benefits of RISKUL by taking advantage of our 30-day free trial. Alternatively, feel free to reach out to us for a consultation to explore how RISKUL can revolutionise your organisations risk management practices. Discover the power of RISKUL and elevate your approach to risk management.
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