Risk assessments need to be carried out in all work environments to prevent accidents and ill health. Accidents at work can have grave personal loss and can put an organization against tough litigation consequence and reputation. The type of risk assessment will depend on the hazards within the job role. A risk assessment for an administrative clerk sitting in an office most of the day will be different from an offshore oil rig engineer working within a potentially explosive atmosphere. Some risk assessments will be very regular and some only periodic. Risk assessments are healthy for companies as it keeps them proactive and successful in their ways of work. A risk assessment examines all aspects of the work undertaken to consider what could cause harm. If hazards cannot be eliminated, preventative measures should be put in place. The measures resulting from a risk assessment include preventing occupational risks, informing workers and training them. All risk assessments will be different depending on the work environment, however some general approaches include observing the workplace (eg for dust, fumes, machinery safety), understanding the tasks carried out by workers, observing the work in process and considering the effect of external factors. Other areas include physical and psychological factors at work. All these must meet the legal requirements and established guidance for the particular work environment.
So what is the best way to carry out a risk assessment? The risk assessment should have a structured process and should be part of the overall health and safety regime within a company. Risk assessments may need to be segregated ie a geographical risk assessment (for example, work within a similar factory but in different countries with different temperatures and cultures), functional (for example, a specific hazard may be an integral part of the work but is there no other way?) and process (for example, a process may be quicker but is it less risky?). Past experiences of accidents, risk assessments and communication with employees directly on the job would be part of the process. Patterns of exposure to those at risk should be identified, for example, a factory worker may experience different levels of exposure to fumes, noise etc. due to changes in working areas on the factory floor. All those at risk should be identified and records made. Hazards should be identified and graded ie very low harm from the measures currently in place or inadequate protection level leading to high potential for harm. Options would then need to be investigated for eliminating or militating against risks identified. The control measures should then be decided. These may need to be updated on existing work practices. The risk assessment results should be recorded and then revised at periodic intervals or when is appropriate for the work environment. If work places are subject to frequent change the risk assessments need to be carried out more regularly as opposed to that being carried out on a fixed premises. These include temporary workspaces, building sites, docks, shipbuilding. However, even on a fixed premise, such as a factory floor, a regular risk assessment may need to be carried out; its all to do with the nature of the work.
On the legislative side, European law pertaining to risk assessment includes the Framework Directive 89/391. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 is also applicable.