Risk Assessment
for the Henna Artist
Catharine Hinton  for The Henna Page
12th August 2004

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW Regs) came into force on 31st December 1999. These regulations mean that any employer or self-employed persons must assess the risk to workers and others who may be affected by their work such as customers or passers by.

Most of us already carry out risk assessments daily – we notice things, note changes, recognise faults and take the necessary action.

All that you need to do is make sure that the assessment is systematic and the findings recorded.

If you think that risk assessment is an over the top exercise for a henna artist just look at this list of risks which I identified at a recent event:

At a henna gig: what is the risk, and who is at risk?
    • Lifting awkward and heavy display equipment into the car/ out of the car and to the venue; (me and my assistant)
    • Lifting awkward and heavy gazebo into the car/ out of the car and to the venue (me and my assistant)
    • Setting up Gazebo in adverse weather (windy) (me and my assistant)
    • Setting up display equipment (me and my assistant)
    • Setting up table and chairs (me and my assistant)
    • Gazebo collapsing (everyone)
    • Display equipment collapsing (everyone)
    • Table and chairs collapsing (everyone)
    • Uneven ground in my where my stall is to be situated (everyone)
    • Uneven ground on the approach to my stall (everyone)
    • Sunburn (me and my assistant)
    • Sunstroke (me and my assistant)
    • Constant loud music (everyone)
    • Repetitive Strain Injury from hennaing all day (me)
    • Back strain from hennaing all day (me)
    • Eye strain from hennaing in too bright or too low light (me)
    • Air-borne infections (everyone)
    • Communicable skin infections (everyone)
    • Fire risk from food stall next door (everyone)
    • Untidy equipment (everyone)
    • Adverse reaction henna or ingredients (everyone)
    • Adverse reaction to Witch Hazel (everyone)
    • Henna stains on clothes (everyone)
    • Henna stains on equipment (including design books) (Plant/equipment)
    • Children ingesting henna cones (children under the age of 4)

As you can see the people most at risk are us as henna artists! The risk assessment is the opportunity for us to methodically analyse the risk and then develop strategies to eliminate or reduce the risk. We can only benefit from making our work safer and healthier for ourselves, our employees and our customers.

Legal Requirements

You have to make a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of: ‘the risk to the health and safety of their employees to which they are exposed whilst at work’ and ‘the risks to the health and safety of persons not in their employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by them of their undertakings’. The Health and Safety at work Act also requires that:

Employer to employee – so far as is reasonably practicable to ensure the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances (S2 (b) (e))

Employer to persons not in their employment – To ensure that persons are not exposed to risks of health and safety (S3)

Employees – Have a duty to take care of other persons affected by their work  (S7)

What is a risk assessment?

Basically risk assessment is defined as an identification of the hazards present and an estimate of the extent of the risks involved.

Hazard: Something which has the potential for causing harm

Risk: The likelihood of the hazard occurring and causing harm

After identifying the hazards and the risks the next step is to devise and control measures to control the risks.

‘Suitable and sufficient’

a) This should identify significant risks – risks likely to arise because of the work activity. Routine activities associated with life in general don’t need to be detailed unless they are compounded by the work activity.

b) Should allow identification and priority of measures that need to be taken to comply with relevant statutory measures.

c) Should be appropriate to the nature of the work.

Risk Assessment Checklist

1.    Identification of hazards associated with the operation and evaluation of risks arising of the hazards
2.    Record the significant findings
3.    Identify any group of employees (or maybe single employees) who are especially at risk
4.    Identify any group of persons who ma be at risk e.g. visitors, contractors, members of the public
5.    Evaluate existing controls, are they satisfactory and if not what action is to be taken e.g. training and provision of information
6.    Assess and record the probability or likelihood of an accident occurring as a result of the uncontrolled hazard
7.    Record any circumstances arising from the assessment where serious and/or imminent danger arises
8.    Identify what information is needed for employees n the risks to their health and safety identified by the assessment, the precautions to be taken and any emergency arrangements
9.    Provide an action plan giving information on implementation of additional controls, in order of priority – with realistic timescale

Hazard Identification

Possible hazards:
  •    Fall of person from height (e.g. down a step)
  •    Fall of object/material from height (e.g. Your shelter collapsing)
  •    Fall of object/material on the same level (e.g. your display)
  •    Fall of person on same level (e.g someone tripping)
  •    Manual Handling (e.g. Lifting your equipment)
  •    Posture (e.g. working hunched over)
  •    Fire
  •    Electricity
  •    Drowning  
  •    Gas
  •    Stored energy (e.g. In a portable heater)
  •    Explosions (e.g. Generator/heater)
  •    Noise (e.g. especially at a music festival!)
  •    ‘Adverse’ weather (e.g. rain, cold, hot sun)
  •    Hand tools (e.g. your applicators)
  •    Chemicals / Substances (your henna!)
  •    Stacking
  •    Untidiness
  •    Lighting

Risk Assessment methodology

1. You basically ask the question ‘what if?’ – what is the realistic worst likely outcome, is it:

1.    Environmental/plant damage
2.    Minor injury
3.    Major injury to one person
4.    Major injury to many persons
5.    Fatality / fatalities

These five outcomes are called the ‘severity rating’. When you decide the severity rating of your risk don’t rely on ‘common sense’! Assume that if someone really daft might do it then it will probably happen!

2. Judge the probability of harm occurring:

Probability                 Description
1. Improbable            So unlikely that probability is close to ‘0’
2. Remote                 Unlikely though conceivable
3. Probable               Not surprised/will occur several times
4. Possible                Could occur sometime
5. Likely/Frequent     Occurs repeatedly / event only to be expected

3. The risk rating for each hazard is then obtained by multiplying the ‘probability rating’ by the ‘severity rating’.

So a ‘likely/frequent’ event (5) that could cause ‘Major injury to one person’ (3) would have a risk rating of 15. An improbable event (1) that could cause ‘Major injury to many persons’ (4) would have a risk rating of 4.  A possible event (4) causing minor injury (2) would have a risk rating of 8.  You can then rank these in order of priority so that the highest score is addressed first. In this case the order of priority would be 15, 8 and 4.

You should fill in all of this on the ‘Risk assessment record sheet’ and use the ‘Risk assessment action table’ to calculate the risk rating and urgency.

Risk / Hazard control

This is the most important element – the control of the risk will determine the success or failure of effort to reduce the risk of injury or ill health to persons affected by work activities. Failure can also occur if all the hazards are not identified correctly or an appropriate judgement made. Actually take time out to observe the work activities - you will learn much more than just carrying out this paper based exercise!

There are 9 basic methods to control risk. 1 is the most effective and 9 is the least effective:

1.    Elimination
2.    Substitution by something less hazardous and risky
3.    Enclosure
4.    Guarding/segregation of people
5.    Safe system of work that reduces risk to an acceptable level
6.    Adequate supervision
7.    Adequate training
8.    information/Instruction (signs/handbooks)
9.    Personal protective equipment

In many cases you will want to use a combination of these control measures. It is worth noting that 1 takes the least effort to maintain control, 9 takes the most effort to maintain control – make your life easier!

You should fill this in on the Health and safety action plan.

Recording the assessment

The assessment must be recorded and the significant findings are required to be included. The objective of the assessment is to improve controls and monitor them to ensure that they continue to be applied. You need to record the following:

a)    hazard/harm potentials
b)    risk ratings which show,
c)    why each risk has been assessed as more important than some and less important than others, which justifies,
d)    why existing controls are adequate, or why and what controls are necessary.

Maintenance and effectiveness of assessments/controls

Not only do the risk assessments need to be suitable and sufficient but they also need to be maintained to ensure that they remain valid. This means that they must be kept under review and updated periodically.

You can best achieve this by a combination of inspection and monitoring techniques and taking corrective/additional action where the need is identified.


Every day we carry out risk assessments on our activities and daily life. We know to move the potted plant off the TV because the cat keeps trying to knock it off, we know pick up the assortment of toys off the stairs otherwise we might trip and fall. Where we can’t stop the hazard from occurring we know that we can do our best to reduce the chances of it causing us problems. Risk assessment is just about writing  it down and thinking about how to protect the people you care about – yourself, your employees and your customers.

Here are Downloadable Risk Assessment Tables for Henna Artists!

Additional References:

Government of Canada, "Occupational Health & Safety": http://www.ccohs.ca/ 

Occupations & Workplaces section: http://www.ccohs.ca/products/subjects/occupation.html 

A Guide to Written Workplace Safety   http://4safenv.state.nv.us/safety.pdf

NIOSH - The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/homepage.html


A Guide to risk assessment requirements (HSE) http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg218.pdf

Five steps to Risk Assessment (HSE) http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.pdf

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