Risk assessment is the process where you:
In practical terms, a risk assessment is a thorough look at your workplace to identify those things, situations, processes, etc that may cause harm, particularly to people. After identification is made, you evaluate how likely and severe the risk is, and then decide what measures should be in place to effectively prevent or control the harm from happening.
For definitions and more information about what hazards and risks are, please see the OSH Answers document Hazard and Risk.
Risk assessments are very important as they form an integral part of a good occupational health and safety management plan. They help to:
The aim of the risk assessment process is to remove a hazard or reduce the level of its risk by adding precautions or control measures, as necessary. By doing so, you have created a safer and healthier workplace.
Assessments should be done by a competent team of individuals who have a good working knowledge of the workplace. Staff should be involved always include supervisors and workers who work with the process under review as they are the most familiar with the operation.
In general, to do an assessment, you should:
When doing an assessment, you must take into account:
By determining the level of risk associated with the hazard, the employer and the joint health and safety committee can decide whether a control program is required.
It is important to remember that the assessment must take into account not only the current state of the workplace but any potential situations as well.
See a sample risk assessment form.
Overall, the goal is to find and record possible hazards that may be present in your workplace. As mentioned, it may help to work as a team and include both people familiar with the work area, as well as people who are not - this way you have both the "experienced" and "fresh" eye to conduct the inspection.
To be sure that all hazards are found:
It may help to create a chart or table such as the following:
| Table 1 |
Example of Risk Assessment
|Delivering product to customers||Drivers work alone||May be unable to call for help if needed|
|Drivers have to occasionally work long hours||Fatigue, short rest time between shifts|
|Drivers are often in very congested traffic||Increased chance of collision|
|Longer working hours|
|Drivers have to lift boxes when delivering product||Injury to back from lifting, reaching, carrying, etc.|
Each hazard should be studied to determine its' level of risk. To research the hazard, you can look at:
Remember to include factors that contribute to the level of risk such as the:
Ranking or prioritizing hazards is one way to help determine which hazard is the most serious and thus which hazard to control first. Priority is usually established by taking into account the employee exposure and the potential for accident, injury or illness. By assigning a priority to the hazards, you are creating a ranking or an action list. The following factors play an important role:
There is no one simple or single way to determine the level of risk. Ranking hazards requires the knowledge of the workplace activities, urgency of situations, and most importantly, objective judgement.
One option is to use a table similar to the following as established by the British Standards Organization:
| Table 2 |
Risk Assessment by the British Standards Organization
|Likelihood of Harm||Severity of Harm|
|Slight Harm||Moderate Harm||Extreme Harm|
|Very unlikely||Very low risk||Very low risk||High risk|
|Unlikely||Very low risk||Medium risk||Very high risk|
|Likely||Low risk||High risk||Very high risk|
|Very likely||Low risk||Very high risk||Very high risk|
Note: These categorizations and the resulting asymmetry of the matrix arise from the examples of harm and likelihood illustrated within the British Standard. Organizations should adjust the design and size of the matrix to suit their needs.
Very Likely - Typically experienced at least once every six months by an individual.
Likely - Typically experienced once every five years by an individual.
Unlikely - Typically experienced once during the working lifetime of an individual.
Very unlikely - Less than 1% chance of being experienced by an individual during their working lifetime.
Potential severity of harm - When establishing potential severity of harm, information about the relevant work activity should be considered, together with:
a) part(s) of the body likely to be affected;
b) nature of the harm, ranging from slight to extremely harmful:
1. slightly harmful (e.g., superficial injuries; minor cuts and bruises; eye irritation from dust; nuisance and irritation; ill-health leading to temporary discomfort)
2. harmful (e.g., lacerations; burns; concussion; serious sprains; minor fractures; deafness; dermatitis; asthma; work-related upper limb disorders; ill-health)
3. extremely harmful (e.g., amputations; major fractures; poisonings; multiple injuries; fatal injuries; occupational cancer; other severely life shortening diseases; acute fatal diseases)
Tolerability Guidance on necessary action and timescale :
Very low - These risks are considered acceptable. No further action is necessary other than to ensure that the controls are maintained.
Low - No additional controls are required unless they can be implemented at very low cost (in terms of time, money, and effort). Actions to further reduce these risks are assigned low priority. Arrangements should be made to ensure that the controls are maintained.
Medium - Consideration should be as to whether the risks can be lowered, where applicable, to a tolerable level and preferably to an acceptable level, but the costs of additional risk reduction measures should be taken into account. The risk reduction measures should be implemented within a defined time period. Arrangements should be made to ensure that controls are maintained, particularly if the risk levels area associated with harmful consequences.
High - Substantial efforts should be made to reduce the risk. Risk reduction measures should be implemented urgently within a defined time period and it might be necessary to consider suspending or restricting the activity, or to apply interim risk control measures, until this has been completed. Considerable resources might have to be allocated to additional control measures. Arrangements should be made to ensure that controls are maintained, particularly if the risk levels are associated with extremely harmful consequences and very harmful consequences.
Very high - These risk are unacceptable. Substantial improvements in risk control measures are necessary so that the risk is reduced to a tolerable or acceptable level. The work activity should be halted until risk controls are implemented that reduces the risk so that it is no longer very high. If it is not possible to reduce the risk, the work should remain prohibited.
Note: Where the risk is associated with extremely harmful consequences, further assessment is necessary to increase confidence in the likelihood of harm.
Occupational health and safety management systems - Guide: British Standard, BS 8800, BSI 2004; and Managing Safety the Systems Way: Implementing OHSAS 18001 using BS 8800, BSI 2004.
Other options include using tables such as Table 3 below.
| Table 3 |
Hazard Control Strategy: A Sample Worksheet
|Hazard||% Employees Affected||Frequency of Occurrence||Hazard Potential||Priority||Priority Rank|
|Back pain||80||H||H||80-HH||2 (?)|
H = High, L = Low
* From: Health and Safety Committees Reference Guide, CCOHS
Or, Table 4, where 1 = extremely important to do something as soon as possible, 6 = hazard may not need immediate attention.
| Table 4 |
Example of Hazard Priority Setting
|Very likely - could happen at any time||Likely - could happen sometime||Unlikely - could happen but very rarely||Very unlikely - could happen but probably never will>|
|Kill or cause permanent disability or ill health||1||1||2||3|
|Long term illness or serious injury||1||2||3||4|
|Medical attention and several days off work||2||3||4||5|
|First aid needed||3||4||5||6|
From: Hazpak: Making your workplace safer. A practical guide to basic risk management by WorkCover New South Wales, Australia.[n.d.] .
Once you have established your top priorities, you can decide on ways to control each specific hazard. Hazard control methods are often grouped into the following categories:
For more details, please see the OSH Answers Hazard Control.
It is important to know if your risk assessment was complete and accurate. It is also essential to be sure that changes in the workplace have not introduced new hazards or changed hazards that were once ranked as lower priority to a higher priority.
It is good practice to review your assessment on a regular basis to be sure that nothing has changed and that your control methods are effective. Triggers for a review can also include:
Keeping records of your assessment and any control actions taken is very important. You may be required to store assessments for a specific number of years. Check for local requirements in your jurisdiction.
The level of documentation or record keeping will depend on:
Your records should show that you:
Document confirmed current on February 2, 2009
Document last updated on June 19, 2006