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Risk assessment is a term used to describe the overall process or method where you:
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 analyze and evaluate how likely and severe the risk is. When this determination is made, you can next, decide what measures should be in place to effectively eliminate or control the harm from happening.
The CSA Standard Z1002 "Occupational health and safety - Hazard identification and elimination and risk assessment and control" uses the following terms:
Risk assessment – the overall process of hazard identification, risk analysis, and risk evaluation.
Hazard identification – the process of finding, listing, and characterizing hazards.
Risk analysis – a process for comprehending the nature of hazards and determining the level of risk.
(1) Risk analysis provides a basis for risk evaluation and decisions about risk control.
(2) Information can include current and historical data, theoretical analysis, informed opinions, and the concerns of stakeholders.
(3) Risk analysis includes risk estimation.
Risk evaluation – the process of comparing an estimated risk against given risk criteria to determine the significance of the risk.
Risk control – actions implementing risk evaluation decisions.
Note: Risk control can involve monitoring, re-evaluation, and compliance with decisions.
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 an occupational health and safety management plan. They help to:
The aim of the risk assessment process is to evaluate hazards, then remove that hazard or minimize the level of its risk by adding control measures, as necessary. By doing so, you have created a safer and healthier workplace.
The goal is to try to answer the following questions:
There may be many reasons a risk assessment is needed, including:
In general, determine:
Assessments should be done by a competent person or team of individuals who have a good working knowledge of the situation being studied. Include either on the team or as sources of information, the supervisors and workers who work with the process under review as these individuals are the most familiar with the operation.
In general, to do an assessment, you should:
When doing an assessment, also take into account:
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.
By determining the level of risk associated with the hazard, the employer, and the health and safety committee (where appropriate), can decide whether a control program is required and to what level.
See a sample risk assessment form.
Overall, the goal is to find and record possible hazards that may be present in your workplace. 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. In either case, the person or team should be competent to carry out the assessment and have good knowledge about the hazard being assessed, any situations that might likely occur, and protective measures appropriate to that hazard or risk.
To be sure that all hazards are found:
It may help to create a chart or table such as the following:
|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:
Ranking or prioritizing hazards is one way to help determine which risk is the most serious and thus which to control first. Priority is usually established by taking into account the employee exposure and the potential for incident, injury or illness. By assigning a priority to the risks, you are creating a ranking or an action list.
There is no one simple or single way to determine the level of risk. Nor will a single technique apply in all situations. The organization has to determine which technique will work best for each situation. Ranking hazards requires the knowledge of the workplace activities, urgency of situations, and most importantly, objective judgement.
For simple or less complex situations, an assessment can literally be a discussion or brainstorming session based on knowledge and experience. In some cases, checklists or a probability matrix can be helpful. For more complex situations, a team of knowledgeable personnel who are familiar with the work is usually necessary.
As an example, consider this simple risk matrix. Table 1 shows the relationship between probability and severity.
Severity ratings in this example represent:
Probability ratings in this example represent:
The cells in Table 1 correspond to a risk level, as shown in Table 2.
These risk ratings correspond to recommended actions such as:
Let's use an example: When painting a room, a step stool must be used to reach higher areas. The individual will not be standing higher than 1 metre (3 feet) at any time. The assessment team reviewed the situation and agrees that working from a step stool at 1 m is likely to:
When compared to the risk matrix chart (Table 1), these values correspond to a low risk.
The workplace decides to implement risk control measures, including the use of a stool with a large top that will allow the individual to maintain stability when standing on the stool. They also determined that while the floor surface is flat, they provided training to the individual on the importance of making sure the stool's legs always rest on the flat surface. The training also included steps to avoid excess reaching while painting.
Once you have established the priorities, the organization 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 any 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 make sure your control methods are effective.
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: