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Risk assessment (APV)

WEA Guideline D.1.1-3 on Risk Assessment (APV)

July 2009 - Updated April 2016

This WEA guideline outlines the legal requirements a company's risk assessment (APV) must fulfil. The guidelines are intended both for employees and companies and include suggestions on how to carry out a risk assessment.

On the WEA website your company can find suggested methods for the risk assessment procedure.

These guidelines first describe what employers and employees can gain from carrying out a risk assessment. This is followed by information about what a company must do in relation to the risk assessment. The end of the guidelines lists references to useful material.

The boxes contain ideas and suggestions for the risk assessment process.

1. Why draw up a risk assessment?

The risk assessment is not just an obligation that companies have under health and safety legislation. The risk assessment is a tool to systematise health and safety practices that can contribute to a good working environment.

Companies benefit from having a good working environment. This can lead to:

  • Fewer costs related to accidents and occupational injuries
  • Reduced absence due to illness
  • Lowered staff turnover
  • Increased job satisfaction, motivation and productivity.

The company can independently choose the methods and tools it will use to implement the risk assessment.

The WEA is not required to approve the risk assessment but will monitor that the company performs the assessment in compliance with legal requirements.

2. What must the company do?

In this section we will describe the obligations of a company when performing a risk assessment.

In Danish health and safety legislation there are some risk assessment requirements that a company must always adhere to:*

  • The risk assessment must be in writing.
  • The risk assessment must be freely available at the company so that both employees and the WEA can consult it.
  • The risk assessment process usually consists of five phases, which are described in section 4. Individual companies may themselves choose the tools and methods that they consider best.
  • Management and employees must cooperate in the entire risk assessment process.
A risk assessment can be made available by, for example, being posted to a canteen wall or on the company intranet. The most important thing is that employees and management know where they can find it. 

All companies with employees must perform a risk assessment. Employers are responsible for ensuring this happens. This also applies if there is only one employee and also even when this is short-term contractual employment or casual work.

In companies where work is carried out by members of the employer's household, children or spouse, for example, and where there are no other employees, a risk assessment is not mandatory. 

3. Who needs to take part in the assessment?

When a company performs a risk assessment the Health and Safety organisation must be involved in the entire process. This includes the planning, performance, follow-up inspection and a review of the risk assessment. In those companies that are not required to set up a HSO, employees must take part in the risk assessment process in the same way. The health and safety organisation/employees must sign the risk assessment as a declaration of their participation.

It is often worthwhile to agree shared goals and "ground rules" for the risk assessment with the health and safety organisation. By answering the following questions, for example:
  • What is the purpose of the risk assessment?
  • In addition to the health and safety organisation's members, is there a need to involve other key personnel in the process?
  • What methods and tools should be used?
  • Who will register, prioritise and resolve any problems identified? And how?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining health and safety activities in each department?
  • Is there a need for meetings, courses, an introductory seminar, training etc.?
  • Is there a need for external support, for instance from an occupational health and safety consultant?
  • How are experiences to be collected and used in the review of the risk assessment?

If a company has insufficient knowledge to perform a risk assessment alone, it should obtain help from external consultants. The health and safety organisation must be consulted before the company seeks external assistance.

4. The five phases of a risk assessment

The company must ensure that the risk assessment contains the following five elements that make up the phases of the risk assessment:

  • Identification and surveying of the company's total working environment
  • A description and assessment of the company's health and safety problems
  • The inclusion of the company's record of absenteeism due to sickness
  • Prioritisation of the company's health and safety issues and drawing up a plan of action
  • Guidelines to follow up on the plan of action

4.1. Identification and surveying

The risk assessment begins with a survey of the current state of the working environment in all parts of the company. All parts of the company also includes, for example, work performed away from the company's home address. For example, work at temporary or mobile sites, work on a construction site or at a home office, see sections 6 and 7.

There are no specific requirements for the way a company must perform this survey, but it can be done by:

  • Employee interviews
  • Round table discussions
  • Satisfaction surveys
  • Questionnaires, e.g. digital

Health and safety risk assessment

Using material from the sectoral working environment councils (www.bar-web.dk).

The survey should reveal if the company has health and safety issues and, if so, these must be recorded in writing.

These issues might be in the areas of ergonomics, biological, chemical, physical, psychosocial and accident risk. 

If health and safety problems do not exist at the company this must be stated on the risk assessment. If there are no health and safety problems that contribute to absence due to illness, see section 4.3., the company does not need to proceed with the remaining phases of the risk assessment process.

The survey can be seen as an overall record of workplace health and safety conditions. The risk assessment must state that the health and safety organisation/employees have been involved in the process.

For example, the survey might describe problems with too little light in a certain room, the risk of falls, an excess of heavy lifting in one job area, excessively large workloads and/or the risk of violence. 

4.2. Description and assessment

If the identification and survey reveals health and safety problems the company must describe these and assess how to resolve them.

It is essential that the company describes the problem's nature, seriousness and extent. It is also essential to identify the cause(s) of the problem and the best solutions.

When the company sets out to describe solutions it must keep in mind:

  • that the solutions can prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • that the solutions are directed at the source of the problem
  • that work can be fitted to the employees in a more appropriate way
  • that whatever is hazardous or harmful can be replaced with something non-hazardous/harmless or less hazardous/harmful
  • that the solutions protect as many people as possible
  • that employees are correctly trained and instructed in what to do

4.3. Incorporating absences due to illness

A safe and healthy working environment can help to prevent absenteeism due to illness among employees. Conversely, working environment problems can lead to increased sick leave.

It is a good idea to start by examining whether there are health and safety conditions that may be a cause of absenteeism. These may include heavy lifting, occupational injuries, indoor climate or a poor psychological working environment. 

The risk assessment process can help to throw light on possible links between the company's working environment and absenteeism due to illness.

The aim is to assess what the company can do to reduce this part of the absenteeism.

This is the reason that absenteeism due to sickness needs to be incorporated into the risk assessment. It is not the absence itself that is looked at but the company must assess if there are any health and safety conditions that may be contributing to the overall level of absenteeism. Individual employees’ sick leave should not be included in the risk assessment.

The reasons for absence due to illness may often prove to be complex and varied. It may turn out that it is not company working environment conditions that are contributing to the absence. But it can also be the case that there are actual health and safety conditions that affect absenteeism.

There are no specific requirements for the way in which companies include absence rates in their risk assessments. The company can therefore choose the way(s) which best suit the company.

The company could, for example, use statistics, surveys or other data on sick leave to get an overall picture of absenteeism due to illness, e.g.

  • how it is broken down
  • whether the level is increasing or falling
  • whether there are departments or job functions that have an especially high rate of absenteeism due to illness
An overview like this can be a valuable basis for evaluating if there are conditions in the working environment that need to be changed to prevent absenteeism. 

4.4. Prioritisation and plan of action

The next phase of the risk assessment is to draw up a plan of action for the company to tackle the health and safety problems that cannot be resolved right away. If the company identifies health and safety problems that it considers can be resolved right away, it is best to do this immediately.

The plan of action should include:

  • A brief description of the problems
  • A brief description of the chosen solutions. 

If the risk assessment shows that there are health and safety problems that entail acute danger for employee safety or health the company must immediately take steps to remove the danger or reduce it to an acceptable level. These problems should also be included in the plan of action so that more permanent solutions may be found.

It is important to work through the plan of action carefully. This includes ensuring that targets and schedules are as realistic as possible and that consideration has been given to who is responsible for solving which problems. The management and WEO should discuss the plan of action and prioritisation together. 

The plan of action should include a prioritization of the problems identified, in what order they should be resolved, when that should happen and who is responsible for that happening. It may also prove necessary to prioritise among various suggested solutions for the individual problems.

It is a good idea to involve employees in solution development so that they also gain ownership of these.

The plan of action can be used as an activity plan and schedule for further work.

Those responsible for carrying out the risk assessment should regularly update the rest of the company on, for example, which issues have been resolved and which are next on the list for handling. It is important that the company maintains its focus on resolving the issues identified.

4.5. Follow up inspection of the plan of action

The final phase is to establish guidelines for how the company should follow-up on the plan of action.

In this it should be made clear who is responsible for implementing the plan of action in practice. It should also be made clear how and when it will be decided if the solutions chosen have worked, and whether the plan of action requires revision.

5. The risk assessment must be regularly revised

A company must revise its risk assessment when a change takes place in the work or in the way work is carried out. But only if these changes have implications for health and safety.

It may also be necessary to adjust the risk assessment if the company acquires new knowledge or experiences. For example, if a workplace accident occurs or a sharp increase in the number of absences due to illness and it emerges that these were because of working environment conditions then it may be necessary to adjust the risk assessment accordingly.

Changes to working conditions or the manner of working can include the introduction of working from home or the use of new machinery or substances in production. 

The risk assessment must, in any case, be reviewed at least every three years.

6. Alternating and temporary workplaces

As a rule it is not necessary to perform a risk assessment for every single mobile or temporary workplace. The work will often include job functions that are carried out identically at several work sites. This may be the case, for example, for companies that carry out home help, plumbing etc. In these cases the risk assessment may be based on the general work practices. If special conditions at one or more of the work sites influence how work is performed this must be stated in the risk assessment.

For companies that operate outside of the company home base, the first phase of the risk assessment process is therefore to determine if there are special health and safety problems at the mobile or temporary work sites that are not already known.

After which the company should go through the remaining phases of the risk assessment. The risk assessment should be freely available for employees to consult.

The company can, for example, post the risk assessment in areas that employees regularly frequent. 

A company must revise its risk assessment when a change takes place in the work or in the way work is carried out. But only if these changes have implications for health and safety.

7. Building and construction sector

Most companies in the building and construction sector will find it necessary to include the company's construction site activities and various service assignments in the risk assessment.

The part of the risk assessment that deals with construction site work should not be confused with the construction site health and safety plan that the contracting client draws up.

The risk assessment may be based on the company's typical work assignments. Each individual construction site may have special conditions. These special circumstances may be stated in the tender documents or in the client's construction plan, for example. The company must adjust its risk assessment accordingly if there are special conditions at the construction site. It is essential that the company agrees guidelines for how to adapt the risk assessment to the special conditions.

Typical work assignments could be, for example, installation of concrete elements, bricklaying, laying heating pipes, erecting roofing structures or insulating ceilings. 

The risk assessment must be freely available for employees to consult. If they frequently return to the company home base, it is sufficient if the risk assessment is available there. If this is not the case, the risk assessment must be available somewhere on the construction site. If a company has chosen to prepare a separate risk assessment for work on the construction site, it is sufficient if this is available at the construction site.

Special conditions may include, used structures, substances and materials, or atypical ways of performing the work. 

At the same time, the company should send the risk assessment to the construction site management if it could have significance for the contracting client's ongoing revision of the health and safety plan.

The risk assessment can be made available in the employees' construction site hut, for example. 

8. Special requirements for the risk assessment

The company must be aware that in certain areas there are special requirements for the risk assessment. These include:

  • Manual handling
  • Screen work
  • A risk of cancer
  • Biological agents
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers' working environment
  • Mineral extraction
  • Young people's working environment
  • Chemical agents
  • Work in explosive atmospheres (ATEX)
  • Vibrations
  • Noise.

Companies can get more information about these requirements by visiting the WEA website www.at.dk.

9. Help in the risk assessment process

9.1. WEA checklists

At www.at.dkyou will find WEA checklists of questions that help to identify the health and safety problems the risk assessment must deal with. The checklists are especially aimed at companies with fewer than ten employees, and they are divided according to sector.

9.2. WEA directories

The company can also find directories on the WEA website www.at.dk. These describe the general health and safety issues that may exist in various sectors. They also offer good advice on how companies can solve problems and where to find more information and ideas.Significant problems at an individual company should be included in the risk assessment, regardless whether they are stated in the relevant health and safety directory or not.

9.3. Other forms of assistance

Several consulting firms provide electronic tools that systematically guide a company through the risk assessment phases and ensure compliance with the law. There are also electronic solutions that facilitate, for example, the transition from surveying to laying down a plan of action.

The sectoral working environment councils (BAR) have also compiled information on risk assessments, that are aimed at various sectors (www.bar-web.dk).

There is a list of authorized health and safety consultants on the WEA website www.at.dk. However, companies may also choose to use other external consultants.



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