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Learn from a Risk Matrix Example in Excel

We can apply a risk matrix to a set of data to determine the risk that a hazard poses. We can do this with the INDEX and MATCH function. In this Matrix, the Y-axis tells us the SEVERITY of the risk involved and the X-axis tells us the LIKELIHOOD of occurrence of the RISK. Hence, the RISK of a hazard is calculated as:

Risk of hazard = likelihood of occurrence (probability) * Severity of harm

We will walk through the steps below to understand the process.

Figure 1: How to Use a Risk Matrix


The formula in Cell D13 is given as:


Setting up the Data

We will set up the risk matrix by doing the following:

  • We will type the severity on the Y-axis (Cell B5 to Cell B9)
  • We will type the likelihood on the X-axis (Cell C4 to Cell G4)
  • We will input the numbers as shown in figure 2 in the range of C5:G9
  • Cell C11, C12, and C13 will be named likelihood, severity, and result respectively
  • Cell D11 and D12 will be named as RARE and MODERATE respectively

Figure 2: Setting up the Risk Matrix Data

Determining the Risk

  • We will click on Cell E11
  • We will type in this string: =MATCH(D11,C4:G4,0)
  • Click on Enter
  • Likewise, we will click on Cell E12
  • We will type in this string: =MATCH(D12,B5:B9,0)
  • We will click on Enter

Figure 3: Determining the Result of the Inputted Data in the Risk Matrix

We will type the formula below into Cell D13


Figure 4: Determining the Result of the Inputted Data in the Risk Matrix

We will press enter

Figure 5: Result of the Inputted Data in the Risk Matrix


  • MATCH function

The match function matches the lookup value within a specified range and we have set it to return an exact match. For instance, when determining the likelihood in the example, we typed in the string below:


D11 is the lookup value, C4:G4 is the range and zero indicates an exact match.

The same scenario applies to determine the severity.

  • INDEX function

The INDEX function returns the number or value that is present in ROW 3 and COLUMN 2 based on this string: =INDEX(C5:G9,E11,E12)

This method is preferred to the ALTERNATIVE METHOD because we can vary the SEVERITY and LIKELIHOOD in Cells D11 and D12 respectively to AUTOMATICALLY get the result.

Alternative method

  • We will click on Cell D13
  • We will type the string below into the Cell
  • We will click on Enter

Figure 6: Result of the Alternative method of applying the Risk Matrix

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Another blog reader asked this question today on Excelchat:
Here are some problems that our users have asked and received explanations on

I need to auto populate a risk rating column using a known risk matrix... but am unsure of the formula. The ie if Column consequence = X (Minor) And Column Likelyhood=Y (Unlikely) then Rating = Z (Medium) I also want that Rating to auto populate a background colour for that Rating column, depending on the rating... Ie Rating Insignificant/Rare = Green Rating Insignificatn/Unlikely = Dark Green Rating Insignificant/ Possible = Green Insignificant/Likely - Green to Extremem/ Almost Certain = Red. thanks Alex
Solved by A. L. in 19 mins
hat is wrong w/ this formula? =IF(A3=MATRIX!A3:A1678,MATRIX!B3:B1678,"change")
Solved by G. C. in 14 mins
I have a major list of products. some products are parents, and some are children. they are listed as follows itemID | matrix type | subitem of 4 | parent matrix item | 4-black | child matrix item | 4 4-white | child matrix item | 4 5 | parent matrix item ||| 5-white | child matrix item | 5 5-black | child matrix item | 5 5-silver | child matrix item | 5 so on and so on i do not want to manually go through 20k items and enter children matrix item or parent matrix item nor do i want to enter subitem of. there must be a way excel can check ITEMID and see if any number is by itself like the 4 and 5 here write parent matrix item in that column and than check for 4 and 5 with a description and write child matrix item and subitem to that number in from of the color or size option. so excel would automatically input everything in red
Solved by C. H. in 22 mins

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