A Guide to Understanding 5x5 Risk Matrix

This guide walks you through the basics of a 5x5 risk matrix: its definition, importance, components, and usage.

5x5 risk matrix featured

Published 17 Aug 2022

What is a 5x5 Risk Matrix?

A type of risk matrix that is visually represented as a table or a grid, a 5x5 risk matrix has 5 categories each for probability (along the X axis) and impact (along the Y axis), all following a scale of low to high. As a comprehensive tool used by organizations during the risk assessment stage of project planning, operations management, or job hazard analysis, a 5x5 risk matrix aims to identify the probability and impact levels of injury and risk exposure to a worker in relation to workplace hazards. Further, it can serve as a supplementary tool in evaluating the possible damage or disruption brought about by risks.

Importance of Using One

For most organizations, having a tool to visually represent risk assessments is paramount to effective operations management. Aside from the purpose of objectively rating risks based on their probability of occurrence and impact levels, a 5×5 risk matrix helps provide an easy-to-follow guide for future risk rating processes whenever a new hazard is identified.

This tool allows Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) professionals conduct thorough risk assessments, having 5 rating levels for each component for a more accurate analysis. With the 5×5 risk matrix explained, compared to other versions like 3×3 and 4×4, the 5×5 version provides a more thorough way of rating risks using a 5-point scale.

Ultimately, the two main advantages of this using this tool are the following:

  • Helps simplify how various risk levels are represented
  • Reduces the need to conduct time-consuming quantitative analyses

Its 2 Components

5x5 Risk Matrix Sample

5×5 Risk Matrix Sample

Color-coding is crucial for a 5×5 risk assessment matrix to represent the combination level of probability and impact of the identified risks. That said, high risks must be in red, moderate risks in yellow (amber), and low risks in green. Organizations, EHS professionals, and project managers can then use other closely-related colors, such as orange, light red, and light green, to differentiate the specific risk ratings.

A 5×5 risk matrix also aims to answer the question “What are the 5 risk rating levels in the risk assessment matrix?” A 5×5 risk matrix has two axes, or components to put it simply, that make up the whole table or grid: the Probability and the Impact. Under the two are 5 risk rating levels used to calculate risks.

Probability

Also called likelihood, the Probability (x axis) pertains to the extent of how likely it is for the risk to occur. The 5 risk rating levels under this component are as follows:

  1. Rare – unlikely to happen and/or have minor or negligible consequences
  2. Unlikely – possible to happen and/or to have moderate consequences
  3. Moderate – likely to happen and/or to have serious consequences
  4. Likely – almost sure to happen and/or to have major consequences
  5. Almost certain – sure to happen and/or have major consequences

Impact

Also called severity or consequences, the Impact (y axis) aims to determine the level of effects that the hazard can cause to workplace health and safety.

While a 5×5 risk matrix can be tailored to the needs of an organization, the following represent the general terms used to describe the 5 levels to determine the risk’s impact:

  1. Insignificant – won’t cause serious injuries or illnesses
  2. Minor – can cause injuries or illnesses, only to a mild extent
  3. Significant – can cause injuries or illnesses that may require medical attention but limited treatment
  4. Major – can cause irreversible injuries or illnesses that require constant medical attention
  5. Severe – can result to fatality

Each risk box represents the rating of a risk that is calculated based on its particular levels of probability and impact. In most cases, the 5×5 risk matrix uses numeric values to better represent the risk ratings.

Calculating Risks Using the 5×5 Risk Matrix

Probability x Impact = Risk Level

The first step is to assign a numeric value from 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest, for each of the categories under Probability and Impact. Then, use the formula of multiplying the value of the Probability to the value of Impact to determine the Risk Level.

To better understand how the various levels indicate the Probability and Impact, here’s a guide on the numeric values and their representation as a result of the analysis:

  • 1-4: Acceptable – no further action may be needed and maintaining control measures is encouraged
  • 5-9: Adequate – may be considered for further analysis
  • 10-16: Tolerable – must be reviewed in a timely manner to carry out improvement strategies
  • 17-25: Unacceptable – must implement cease in activities and endorse for immediate action

With these, you can improve your existing risk control measures as needed, and recommend further actions that your EHS and quality managers can reinforce toward a proactive safety culture.

How to Use + Examples

Here are some industry examples of when and how to use a 5×5 risk matrix.

ISO 45001 Compliance

ISO 45001:2018, an international standard covering best practices toward employee safety amidst workplace risks, is an example of where using a 5×5 risk matrix is greatly helpful. Since this standard aims to help reduce work-related risk for workers, the management can then use risk assessment tools such as a 5×5 risk matrix to aid in decision-making to mitigate or eliminate workplace hazards.

Quality Risk Management

As part of an organization’s thorough quality risk management system, evaluating risks during the risk analysis stage is best done by using tools such as a 5×5 risk matrix. This can then result in a quantified expression of risk, having the output of the risk assessment as a numeric value or a qualitative description on the level of risk.

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pat guevara safetyculture content specialist

SafetyCulture Content Specialist

Patricia Guevara

Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.

Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.