What is a risk assessment?

There is a simple description of a risk assessment. “A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, could cause harm to people or property, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm.

The aim is to make sure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill. A risk assessment involves identifying the hazards present in any undertaking (whether arising from work activities or from other factors, e.g. the layout of the premises) and then evaluating the extent of the risks involved, taking into account existing precautions".

Employers are required to evaluate risks to safety and health and take action to improve the level of protection given to workers. This process is called a risk assessment, and involves identifying hazards and assessing the associated risk.

The results of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment should help users choose which good practice measures are most appropriate.”

A risk assessment should always be carried out before good practice is applied in the workplace. It has to be adapted to individual circumstances and needs.

The most important piece of European legislation relevant to risk assessment is the Framework Directive 89/391. This Directive is indeed a framework, with “general principles concerning the prevention of occupational risks… as well as general guidelines for the implementation of the said principles” (Art. 1.2.). It makes employers responsible for ensuring the safety and health of workers in every aspect related to work, and risk assessment is an integral aspect of this mandatory occupational safety and health management (OSHM). According to the Directive, risk assessment must be the starting point of a comprehensive OSHM process. It has a central role because it enables employers to put in place the measures that are necessary to protect the safety and health of their workers.

The Framework 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).

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