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What is a Risk Assessment?

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 an 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.

Definitions

Hazards

A hazard can be anything - whether work materials, equipment, work methods or practices - that has the potential to cause harm.

Risks

A risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody may be harmed by the hazard.

Risk assessment

Risk assessment is the process of evaluating risks to workers' safety and health from workplace hazards. It is a systematic examination of all aspects of work that considers:

  • what could cause injury or harm;

  • whether the hazards could be eliminated and, if not;

  • what preventive or protective measures are, or should be, in place to control the risks.

 

Additional resources

External resources