Step 2 - assign priority for each hazard or hazardous job

A work group may have a considerable number of hazards or hazardous jobs to be managed. Therefore, highest priority should be assigned to those that have the greatest potential for loss or injury.

There are two aspects to be considered when prioritising the risks:

  • likelihood of exposure, ie how many people are exposed, how often etc, and
  • potential consequences of exposure to the hazard, ie whether serious injury may result.

The following matrix can be used to assign a “risk rating” to a hazard. Where exposure is more likely and the potential consequences more severe, highest priority is given for prompt resolution.

The “top five” hazards or WHS risks should be properly assessed and controlled in accordance with risk management Step 3. Assess risk and Step 4. Control or fix.

Any tasks that are found to present an imminent risk of serious injury or other adverse event should be halted until suitable controls are put in place to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.

Risk rating matrix

How likely is it to hurt someone?

Kill or disable   

Several days

   off work
First aid 

very likely 

could happen regularly

 1  2  3


could happen occasionally

 2  3  4


could happen, but only rarely

 3  4  5

very unlikely 

could happen, but probably never will

 4  5  6
 The numbers show how important it is to do something:
  do something immediately; 6  do something when possible

When considering the likelihood or consequences of exposure, bear in mind the existing risk control measures, e.g. the safe operating equipment and procedures that are in place etc. The existence of suitable risk control measures will reduce the potential for injury.