Risk assessment is the cornerstone of the European approach to prevent occupational accidents and ill health.
There are good reasons for this. If the risk assessment process – the start of the health and safety management approach – is not done well or not done at all, the appropriate preventive measures are unlikely to be identified or put in place.
Every year, millions of people in the EU are injured at work, or have their health seriously harmed in the workplace. That is why risk assessment is so important, as the key to healthy workplaces. Risk assessment is a dynamic process that allows enterprises and organisations to put in place a proactive policy of managing workplace risks.
For these reasons, it is important that all types and sizes of enterprise carry out regular assessments. Proper risk assessment includes, among others things, making sure that all relevant risks are taken into account (not only the immediate or obvious ones), checking the efficiency of the safety measures adopted, documenting the outcomes of the assessment and reviewing the assessment regularly to keep it updated.
The most important piece of European legislation relevant to risk assessment is the Framework Directive 89/391. This Directive has been transposed into national legislation. Member States, however, have the right to introduce more stringent provisions to protect their workers (for this reason you should check the specific legislation relating to risk assessment in your country).
The European Commission has produced important guidance to help Member States, as well as employers and employees, to fulfil their risk assessment duties, as laid down in the Framework Directive 89/391. The information provided in this section is based on this guidance.
A stepwise approach to risk assessment
- How to carry out a risk assessment Step 1. Identifying hazards and those at risk
- Documenting the risk assessment
Step 2. Evaluating and prioritising risks
Step 3. Deciding on preventive action
Step 4. Taking action
Step 5. Monitoring and reviewing