How to carry out a risk assessment

At EU-level there are no fixed rules about how risk assessments should be undertaken (you need to check the specific legislation relating to risk assessment in your country). However, there are two principles which should always be borne in mind when approaching a risk assessment:

  • to structure the assessment to ensure that all relevant hazards and risks are addressed (e.g. not to overlook tasks, such as cleaning, that might take place out of normal working hours, or ancillary departments such as waste compacting);
  • when a risk is identified, to begin assessment from first principles by asking whether the risk can be eliminated.

OiRA tools are meant to help establishments in this process. They give guidance to be able to approach the risk assessment in a structured way and they include plenty of practical solutions to guide the user in taking action. National OiRA partners take care that a broad range of possible risks in the specific sector at national level are taken into account. 

A stepwise approach to risk assessment

There is no single "right" way to do a risk assessment and different approaches can work in different circumstances. For most businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, a stepwise approach (incorporating elements of risk management) such as the one presented below should work well.

  • Step 1. Identifying hazards and those at risk
    • Identifying those things at work that have the potential to cause harm and identifying workers who may be exposed to the hazards.
  • Step 2. Evaluating and prioritising risks
    • Estimating the existing risks (the severity and probability of possible harm) and prioritising them in order of importance.
  • Step 3. Deciding on preventive action and implementing them
    • Identifying the appropriate measures to eliminate or control the risks and taking action. Putting in place the preventive and protective measures through a prioritisation plan.
  • Step 4. Monitoring and reviewing
    • The assessment should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that it remains up to date.

All the OiRA tools follow the above mentioned steps. 

Documenting the risk assessment

A record of the results of risk assessments at work should be kept. Such a record can be used as a basis to :

  • pass on information to the persons concerned;
  • assess whether necessary measures have been introduced;
  • produce evidence for supervisory authorities;
  • any revision if circumstances change.

A record of at least the following details is recommended:

  • name and function of the person(s) carrying out the examination;
  • the hazards and risks that were identified;
  • the groups of workers who face particular risks;
  • the necessary protection measures;
  • details of the introduction of the measures, such as the name of the person responsible and date;
  • details of subsequent monitoring and reviewing arrangements, including dates and the people involved;
  • details of the involvement of workers and their representatives in the risk assessment process.

The records of assessments should be drawn up with the consultation and participation of workers and/or their representatives and made available to them for information. The workers concerned should, in any case, be informed of the outcome of each assessment that relates to their workstation, and the action to be taken as a result of the assessment.

The OiRA tools provide different reports to give a record of the risk assessment carried out and the measures that were decided.