Roles & Responsibilities

Workers' safety and health is protected in Europe by an approach based on assessing and managing risk. In order to carry out effective workplace risk assessment, all those involved require a clear understanding of the legal context, concepts, the process of assessing the risks and the role to be played by the main actors involved in the process.

Workers' roles and responsibilities

It is important that workers participate in the risk assessment. They know the problems and the details of what really happens when they perform their tasks or activities, so they should be involved in the assessment. Their practical knowledge or competence is also often needed to develop workable preventive measures.

Workers' participation is not only a right, it is fundamental to make the employers' occupational health and safety management effective and efficient.

Workers and/or their representatives have the right/duty to:

  • be consulted on arrangements for the organisation of the risk assessment and for the appointment of those undertaking the task;

  • participate in the risk assessment;

  • alert their supervisors or employers regarding perceived risks;

  • report any changes in the workplace;

  • be informed of the risks to their safety and health and of the measures necessary to eliminate or reduce these risks;

  • be involved in the process of deciding on the preventive and protective measures to be put in place;

  • ask the employer to put in place appropriate measures and to submit proposals to minimise hazards or to remove the danger at source;

  • cooperate to help the employer to ensure that the working environment is safe;

  • be trained/receive instructions on the measures to be put in place;

  • take care as far as possible of their safety and health and that of others persons affected by their acts in accordance with the training and the instructions given by the employer.

In addition, it is important that workers' representatives are trained so that they understand risk assessment and their role in it.

Employers' roles and responsibilities

Employers should carefully prepare what they are going to do in order to meet their responsibilities to make a risk assessment, and put in place the measures necessary for the safety and health of workers. It is recommended that they do this through an action plan for the elimination or control of risks.

The action plan should include:

  • commissioning, organising and coordinating the assessment;

  • appointing competent people to make the assessments;

    • the person carrying out the risk assessment can be:

      • the employers themselves;

      • employees designated by the employers;

      • external assessors and service providers if there is a lack of competent personnel in the workplace.

    • people can demonstrate their competence by showing that they have the following abilities:

      • an understanding of the general approach to risk assessment;

      • the capacity to apply this understanding to the workplace;

      • the ability to identify situations where they would be unable to adequately assess the risk without help, and be able to advise on the need for further assistance.

  • consulting workers' representatives on arrangements for the appointment of those who will make the assessments;

  • providing the necessary information, training, resources and support to assessors who are the employer's own employees;

  • ensuring adequate coordination between assessors (where relevant);

  • involving management and encouraging the participation of the workforce;

  • determining the arrangements to be made for reviewing and revising the risk assessment;

  • ensuring that the preventive and protective measures take account of the results of the assessment;

  • ensuring that the risk assessment is documented;

  • monitoring the protective and preventive measures to ensure that their effectiveness is maintained;

  • informing workers and/or their representatives of the results of the assessment and of the measures introduced (making the records available to them).

Advice for whoever carries out the risk assessment

Persons carrying out risk assessments at work should have knowledge of and/or information on:

  • hazards and risks which are already known to exist, and the way that they arise;

  • the materials, equipment and technology used at work;

  • working procedures and organisation and interaction of workers with the materials used;

  • the type, likelihood, frequency, and duration of exposure to the hazards. In some cases this may mean the application of modern, validated techniques of measurement;

  • the relation between exposure to a hazard and its effect;

  • what is regarded as good practice in areas where there are no specific legal standards.

Employers should make sure that whoever is making the risk assessment, whether an employee or an external consultant, speaks to the employees, or other people such as contractors who actually carry out the work.

Where employees of different employers work in the same workplace, assessors may need to share information about risks and the health and safety measures in place to address those risks. Facilitating this is a matter for the employer to arrange.