Identifying and assessing occupational safety and health risks

Assessing workplace risks gives people an overall picture of the state of occupational safety and health and its development needs in the workplace. The obligation to assess risks is based on the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and it applies to all employers regardless of sector or the number of employees.


Implementation of risk assessment in the workplace

Identifying hazards and assessing risks in the workplace ensures a safe work environment and healthy working conditions. The staff will feel well and the production and services will run smoothly.

Hazards and risk factors resulting from the work environment and working conditions should be assessed systematically in the workplace. If the hazards cannot be eliminated completely, their significance to the health and safety of workers (=magnitude of the risk) should be assessed and measures taken to reduce the risk to a manageable level or to eliminate it altogether.

The company's management makes the decision to carry out a risk assessment. Commitment from the management is needed to ensure adequate resources, to make decisions about possible measures on the basis of the assessment, and to secure the continuity of the assessment.

Planning of risk assessment

The assessment can be carried out by an occupational safety and health organization or a separate evaluation team may be established for this purpose. A suitable size for the group taking part in the assessment is 3–5 people. The assessment group is appointed a team leader, who will act as a contact person between the staff and management.

When assessing specific risks, such as the use of chemicals or machine safety, expert assistance and more detailed evaluation are used.

Occupational health care expertise should be utilized especially when assessing the significance of risks related to occupational hygiene and mental stress and when discussing related measures.

Choosing the targets of the assessment

When assessing something in one go, the target of the assessment should be a clearly defined and manageable whole. When selecting targets, the responsibilities of the line organization's supervisors are a good place to start. When choosing the targets of the assessment, you should also think about what kinds of entities would be in need of an assessment report.

Identifying risks and hazards

Risks and hazards can be identified by analysing the work done in the place of assessment, by observing the work, and by interviewing employees. Checklists make identifying risks and hazards more systematic.

When identifying hazards and risks, abnormal situations should also be taken into account, such as maintenance and repair work, holiday periods, work shifts and the use of stand-ins and trainees.

Determining the magnitude and significance of the risk

The magnitude of the risk is made up of the likelihood of the hazard occurring and how big an impact the hazard would have on people's health and safety.

Factors affecting the impact of the hazard
  • nature of the hazard, mild/severe
  • extent of the consequences, how many people are hurt or injured
  • recurrence/non-recurrence of the hazard
  • duration of adverse effects, short-term/long-term.
Factors affecting the likelihood of the hazard occurring
  • frequency of occurrence of the adverse event
  • duration of the adverse event
  • possibilities to predict the occurrence of the adverse event
  • possibilities to prevent the adverse event.

Significance of the risk

Determining the significance of the risk means assessing whether the risk is at an acceptable level or should some measures be taken to reduce it. When determining the significance of the risk, the order of importance of the measures needed to manage the risks is also assessed.

Risk management measures

The measures taken to reduce risks are assessed according to the following criteria:
  • Fulfilment of requirements, if the measure can be used to remedy shortcomings in the fulfilment of goals set by the legislation, interest groups or oneself, the measure will be implemented.
  • Increased level of safety, the more effective the measure is in reducing the largest risks, the better it is.
  • Extent of the impact, the more risks and more people's safety the measure affects, the better it is.
  • Smoother operations, if the measure causes work to go smoother, it should be implemented.

Monitoring and reporting

Open communication and reporting on the implementation of the risk assessment and the measures taken on the basis of the assessment are all important factors in getting the entire staff to commit to the development of a safe and healthy workplace.

The management and supervisors need reports that they can use to monitor the development of occupational safety and well-being at work.

When monitoring risk assessment, it is important to assess the magnitude of the risks that the measures have had an impact on and to ensure that the planned effect has been achieved with the measures.

The information obtained from the risk assessment is utilized in the following issues:
  • work guidance and orientation
  • work and operating instructions
  • occupational safety and health policy
  • occupational safety and health action plans
  • planning of occupational health care services
  • planning of reports on the work environment and work atmosphere
  • changing of workspaces and work processes.

Continuous safety monitoring

Risk assessment is an ongoing process. Risk assessment is necessary in situations of change, such as when expanding business operations, changing the nature of the operations, restructuring the organization, renovating the premises, or making personnel changes.

In addition to regular, comprehensive hazard identification carried out in the workplace, a method for daily safety monitoring and incident reporting is needed.


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