How to Create a Comprehensive Risk Register: Best Practices and Tips

Jamie Cerexhe
Jamie Cerexhe
April 24, 2024

Anyone who's worked on a construction or capital project knows things can go sideways – fast. In the very worst case, a construction worker might die. Best case? Project is delayed! A well-crafted risk register could avoid your project delay and potentially save lives. A Risk Register is your pro-active roadmap what to do before a risk materializes.  

We know, we know! Its just a boring table 🥱! Think of it less as a boring document and more like a superpower for proactive problem-solving. This guide will explain how to build a non-boring, effective risk register and keep it working for you throughout your project lifecycle, ensuring you stay one step ahead of potential pitfalls.  

What is a Risk Register?

A risk register is literally a list of risks. It identifies the nature of the cause, potential impacts, mitigation strategies, and the person responsible for each risk – creating a list of actionable items toward preventing risks and allowing risk analysis. By systematically organizing this information, a risk register provides a clear overview for project teams, enabling proactive risk management to keep your project on track and protect its success.  

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Create a Risk Register

Step 1: Identify Risks

Initiate the process with a thorough risk identification session that includes key project stakeholders. Get everyone together in a room, learn from past projects, and focus discission on specifics of your project. Employ techniques like SWOT analysis and expert interviews to cover various risk categories such as technical, legal, environmental, financial, and operational aspects. A simple way to approach this step, is think of all the bad stuff that might happen on your project 😅.

Step 2: Analyze and Assess Risks

Use a risk matrix (5x5 or 4x4) to analyze and assess the identified risks, evaluating their likelihood (e.g. not likely) and potential impact (e.g. Catastrophic! 😨). This helps categorize risks into critical, major, moderate, or minor, guiding the prioritization process. If you are using Mastt for this step, it's fun to use our slide bars for likelihood and impact 😁.

Mastt makes Risk Assessment easy with simple slide bars for likelihood and impact / consequence.

Step 3: Prioritize Risks

Focus your resources on the most significant risks, using the insights from the risk assessment to prioritize risks effectively. Which ones are ‘key’ risks that need to be escalated? We recommend tagging key risks for easy sourcing later on, as a risk register can get long and complicated if you are using a spreadsheet.

Try to tag 'Key' risks for easy identification, filtering and sourcing later on

Step 4: Assign Ownership

Designate a responsible owner for each risk to ensure clear accountability for monitoring and managing risks. Using and tagging a person’s name into a risk ensures full accountability.

Step 5: Develop Mitigation Strategies

For each risk, formulate actionable strategies to mitigate or manage it effectively. Tailor these strategies to the specific nuances of your project. Hopefully, the mitigation strategies and risk treatments you employ reduce the likelihood and/or consequence of the risk.

Reducing the impact of a risk with treatments and migitation strategies should result in a reduction in likelihood and consequence ratings for that Risk.

Step 6: Implement and Monitor

Incorporate the mitigation strategies into the project management plan and maintain continuous monitoring to adapt to any changes in the project's scope or external factors. Consider incorporating risk topics into your Project Status report or Monthly Reports using charts and visualisations to help keep risk management front of mind and easy.

A simple visualization of Risks per Risk Category will help consolidate complicated Risk Management work and make easy communicating the highest priority category.

Step 7: Review and Update

Regularly update the risk register to reflect new risks and changes in the project landscape, ensuring the document remains relevant and effective throughout the project. Assign Risk Review dates, Risk Realization dates for trigger notifications or review points.

Best Practices and Tips for Creating and Maintaining a Risk Register

It is important to have the whole team onboard in creating a risk register. Their knowledge and involvement in the process also holds them accountable or responsible for certain identified risks.
It is important to have the whole team onboard in creating a risk register. Their knowledge and involvement in the process also holds them accountable or responsible for certain identified risks.1

1 Integration with Project Management Practices  

Integrate the risk register with overall project management practices to ensure that risk management is not an isolated activity. This integration promotes consistency and ensures that all project decisions consider risk implications.

2 Stakeholder Involvement  

Regularly engage stakeholders in the risk management process. Their input can provide additional insights into potential risks and effective mitigation strategies, especially in complex projects. Step 6 where we recommend incorporating risk topics into your Project Status report or Monthly Reports using charts and visualisations will assist this.

3 Clear Documentation

Maintain clear, concise, and accessible documentation within the risk register. This practice helps in ensuring that everyone involved understands the risks and the steps that are being taken to manage them.

4 Leverage Technology

Utilize project management software that includes automated risk management features to digitally maintain and update the risk register. This approach enhances accessibility and ensures real-time updates and communications.

5 Training and Communication  

Ensure that all team members are trained in the importance of the risk register and understand how to use it effectively. Regular communication about changes in risk status and the introduction of new risks helps keep the team aligned and responsive.

6 Advanced! Integrated Project Controls

Hot tip 🔥! It's an advanced strategy, but integrating your Risk Register with your Budgeting and Cost Management activities will provide greater budget accuracy and identify opportunities where unrealised Risks may unlock capital for reinvestment.

Incorporating your Risks as line items into your Budget or Cost Management tools will provide significant opportunities. This is called integrated Project Controls.


Imagine those surprise scope changes, hidden site conditions, or sudden shifts in the market. A comprehensive risk register is your capital project's radar, giving you early warnings about those potential storms. By mastering its creation and use, you'll be equipped to steer around costly delays, adjust your strategy to capitalize on opportunities, and protect your investment.  

The best practices we've discussed will ensure your register is robust, empowering your team with the data they need to make those confident, proactive decisions. Remember, effective risk management isn't about fear – it's about having a clear-eyed view of the road ahead and the flexibility to navigate towards a successful project outcome.

Take control of every step in your Capital Project lifecycle