How can occupational safety and health be managed?

Managing safety and health is an integral part of managing a business. Businesses need to do a risk assessment to find out about the hazards and risks in their workplace(s) and put measures in place to effectively control them to ensure these hazards and risks cannot cause harm to workers.

The ILO has produced guidelines on the development of occupational safety and health management systems ILO-OSH 2001

These guidelines were designed as a practical tool for assisting organizations (a company, operation, firm, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution or association, or part of it, whether incorporated or not, public or private, that has its own functions and administration) and competent institutions as a means of achieving continual improvement in occupational safety and health (OSH) performance. The guidelines have been developed according to internationally agreed principles defined by the ILO’s tripartite constituents. The practical recommendations of these guidelines are intended for use by all those who have responsibility for OSH management.

Occupational safety and health, including compliance with the OSH requirements pursuant to national laws and regulations, is the responsibility and duty of the employer. The employer should show strong leadership and commitment to OSH activities in the organization, and make appropriate arrangements for the establishment of an OSH management system. The system should contain the main elements of policy, organizing, planning and implementation, evaluation and action for improvement, as shown in figure 1.
Figure 1. Main elements of the OSH management system

Case study: An example of an OSH management system.
An employer’s policy is to ensure the safety and health of its workers and it has dedicated resources and personal to fulfil this desire and is committed to ensuring worker participation to achieve this.

The OSH manager is tasked with ensuring a safe workplace and is held accountable by management to achieve this and this has been communicated to workers. The OSH manager’s competence is enhanced by the attendance of training courses.

The employer uses chemical products in their manufacturing process and risk assessments have been conducted on their use and risk control measures are in place to ensure safe systems of work can be followed. Action plans have been developed to enhance the control measures to assist in reducing the risks.

The maintenance team present conducts planned preventative maintenance to ensure the control measures are functioning correctly to reduce the risks and with the aim of reducing the need for breakdown maintenance.

Through a management review of the process and in discussions with workers decisions were made to revise the use of some of the chemicals and to replace the extraction system that was in place thereby enhancing the control measures.

The OSH management system cycle recommenced with this announcement to workers.

This section provides information on what employers need to consider when managing health and safety and assessing the risks in their workplace. It shows how they can follow the continual improvement approach as shown above.


Occupational safety and health policy

The employer, in consultation with workers and their representatives, should set out in writing an OSH policy to which they are committed and which is communicated to all workers.

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The policy should be:
  • specific to the organization and appropriate to its size and the nature of its activities;
  • concise, clearly written, dated and made effective by the signature or endorsement of the employer or the most senior accountable person in the organization;
  • communicated and readily accessible to all persons at their place of work;
  • reviewed for continuing suitability; and
  • made available to relevant external interested parties, as appropriate.
The OSH policy should include, as a minimum, the following key principles and objectives to which the organization is committed:
  • protecting the safety and health of all members of the organization by preventing work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents;
  • complying with relevant OSH national laws and regulations, voluntary programmes, collective agreements on OSH and other requirements to which the organization subscribes;
  • ensuring that workers and their representatives are consulted and encouraged to participate actively in all elements of the OSH management system; and
  • continually improving the performance of the OSH management system.
The OSH management system should be compatible with or integrated in other management systems in the organization.

Worker participation

Worker participation is an essential element of the OSH management system in the organization.

The employer should ensure that workers and their safety and health representatives are consulted, informed and trained on all aspects of OSH, including emergency arrangements, associated with their work.

The employer should make arrangements for workers and their safety and health representatives to have the time and resources to participate actively in the processes of organizing, planning and implementation, evaluation and action for improvement of the OSH management system.

The employer should ensure, as appropriate, the establishment and efficient functioning of a safety and health committee and the recognition of workers’ safety and health representatives, in accordance with national laws and practice.


Responsibility and accountability

The employer should have overall responsibility for the protection of workers’ safety and health, and provide leadership for OSH activities in the organization.

The employer and senior management should allocate responsibility, accountability and authority for the development, implementation and performance of the OSH management system and the achievement of the relevant OSH objectives.

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Structures and processes should be established which:
  • ensure that OSH is a line-management responsibility which is known and accepted at all levels;
  • define and communicate to the members of the organization the responsibility, accountability and authority of persons who identify, evaluate or control OSH hazards and risks;
  • provide effective supervision, as necessary, to ensure the protection of workers’ safety and health;
  • promote cooperation and communication among members of the organization, including workers and their representatives, to implement the elements of the organization’s OSH management system;
  • fulfil the principles of OSH management systems contained in relevant national guidelines, tailored guidelines or voluntary programmes, as appropriate, to which the organization subscribes;
  • establish and implement a clear OSH policy and measurable objectives;
  • establish effective arrangements to identify and eliminate or control work-related hazards and risks, and promote health at work;
  • establish prevention and health promotion programmes;
  • ensure effective arrangements for the full participation of workers and their representatives in the fulfilment of the OSH policy;
  • provide an appropriate level of financial, technical and human resources to ensure that persons responsible for OSH, including the safety and health committee, can perform their functions effectively; and
  • ensure effective arrangements for the full participation of workers and their representatives in safety and health committees, where they exist.
A person or persons at the senior management level should be appointed, where appropriate, with responsibility, accountability and authority for:
  • the development, implementation, periodic review and evaluation of the OSH management system;
  • periodic reporting to the senior management on the performance of the OSH management system; and
  • promoting the participation of all members of the organization.

Competence and training

The necessary OSH competence (includes education, work experience and training, or a combination of these) requirements should be defined by the employer, and arrangements established and maintained to ensure that all persons, in particular new and young workers have been trained and are competent to carry out the safety and health aspects of their duties and responsibilities.

The employer should have, or should have access to, sufficient OSH competence to identify and eliminate or control work-related hazards and risks, and to implement the OSH management system.

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Under the arrangements referred to in the first paragraph above, training programmes should:
  • cover all members of the organization, as appropriate;
  • be conducted by competent persons;
  • provide effective and timely initial and refresher training at appropriate intervals;
  • include participants’ evaluation of their comprehension and retention of the training;
  • be reviewed periodically. The review should include the safety and health committee, where it exists, and the training programmes, modified as necessary to ensure their relevance and effectiveness; and
  • be documented, as appropriate and according to the size and nature of activity of the organization.
Training should be provided to all participants at no cost and should take place during working hours, if possible.

Occupational safety and health management system documentation

According to the size and nature of activity of the organization, the OSH management system documentation should be established and provided to all members of the organization so that management and workers fully comprehend their respective duties and responsibilities and how OSH is managed in the organization.

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The documentation may cover:
  • the OSH policy and objectives of the organization;
  • the allocated key OSH management roles and responsibilities for the implementation of the OSH management system;
  • the significant OSH hazards/risks arising from the organization’s activities, and the arrangements for their prevention and control; and
  • arrangements, procedures, instructions or other internal documents used within the framework of the OSH management system.
The OSH management system documentation should be:
  • clearly written and presented in a way that is understood by those who have to use it; and
  • periodically reviewed, revised as necessary, communicated and readily accessible to all appropriate or affected members of the organization.
OSH records should be established, managed and maintained locally and according to the needs of the organization. They should be identifiable and traceable, and their retention times should be specified.

Workers should have the right to access records relevant to their working environment and health, while respecting the need for confidentiality.

OSH records may include:
  • records arising from the implementation of the OSH management system;
  • records of work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents;
  • records arising from national laws or regulations dealing with OSH;
  • records of workers’ exposures, surveillance of the working environment and workers’ health; and
  • the results of both active and reactive monitoring.


Arrangements and procedures should be established and maintained for:
  • receiving, documenting and responding appropriately to internal and external communications related to OSH;
  • ensuring the internal communication of OSH information between relevant levels and functions of the organization; and
  • ensuring that the concerns, ideas and inputs of workers and their representatives on OSH matters are received, considered and responded to.

Planning and Implementation

Initial review

The organization’s existing OSH management system and relevant arrangements should be evaluated by an initial review, as appropriate. In the case where no OSH management system exists, or if the organization is newly established, the initial review should serve as a basis for establishing an OSH management system.

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The initial review should be carried out by competent persons, in consultation with workers and/or their representatives, as appropriate. It should:
  • identify the current applicable national laws and regulations, national guidelines, tailored guidelines, voluntary programmes and other requirements to which the organization subscribes;
  • identify, anticipate and assess hazards and risks to safety and health arising from the existing or proposed work environment and work organization; and
  • determine whether planned or existing controls are adequate to eliminate hazards or control risks; and
  • analyse the data provided from workers’ health surveillance, incident reports and near-misses.
The result of the initial review should:
  • be documented;
  • become the basis for making decisions regarding the implementation of the OSH management system; and
  • provide a baseline from which continual improvement of the organization’s OSH management system can be measured.

System planning, development and implementation

The purpose of planning should be to create an OSH management system that supports:
  • as the minimum, compliance with national laws and regulations;
  • the elements of the organization’s OSH management system; and
  • continual improvement in OSH performance.
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Arrangements should be made for adequate and appropriate OSH planning, based on the results of the initial review, subsequent reviews or other available data. These planning arrangements should contribute to the protection of safety and health at work, and should include:
  • a clear definition, priority setting and quantification, where appropriate, of the organization’s OSH objectives;
  • the preparation of a plan for achieving each objective, with defined responsibility and clear performance criteria indicating what is to be done by whom and when;
  • the selection of measurement criteria for confirming that the objectives are achieved; and
  • the provision of adequate resources, including human and financial resources and technical support, as appropriate.
The OSH planning arrangements of the organization should cover the development and implementation of all the OSH management system elements, as described earlier and illustrated in figure 1.

Occupational safety and health objectives

Consistent with the OSH policy and based on the initial or subsequent reviews, measurable OSH objectives should be established, which are:
  • specific to the organization, and appropriate to and according to its size and nature of activity;
  • consistent with the relevant and applicable national laws and regulations, and the technical and business obligations of the organization with regard to OSH;
  • focused towards continually improving workers’ OSH protection to achieve the best OSH performance;
  • realistic and achievable;
  • documented, and communicated to all relevant functions and levels of the organization; and
  • periodically evaluated and if necessary updated.

Hazard prevention

Prevention and control measures

Hazards and risks to workers’ safety and health should be identified and assessed on an ongoing basis. Preventive and protective measures should be implemented in the following order of priority:
  • eliminate the hazard/risk;
  • control the hazard/risk at source, through the use of engineering controls or organizational measures;
  • minimize the hazard/risk by the design of safe work systems, which include administrative control measures; and
  • where residual hazards/risks cannot be controlled by collective measures, the employer should provide for appropriate personal protective equipment, including clothing, at no cost, and should implement measures to ensure its use and maintenance.
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Hazard prevention and control procedures or arrangements should be established and should:
  • be adapted to the hazards and risks encountered by the organization;
  • be reviewed and modified if necessary on a regular basis;
  • comply with national laws and regulations, and reflect good practice; and
  • consider the current state of knowledge, including information or reports from organizations, such as labour inspectorates, occupational safety and health services, and other services as appropriate.
What is meant by ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’?

A hazard is something in an organization that has the inherent potential to cause injury or damage to people’s health, such as chemicals, electricity and working at height. Risk is when a hazard and person come together. Risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by the hazard, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.

Management of change

The impact on OSH of internal changes (such as those in staffing or due to new processes, working procedures, organizational structures or acquisitions) and of external changes (for example, as a result of amendments of national laws and regulations, organizational mergers, and developments in OSH knowledge and technology) should be evaluated and appropriate preventive steps taken prior to the introduction of changes.

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A workplace hazard identification and risk assessment should be carried out before any modification or introduction of new work methods, materials, processes or machinery. Such assessment should be done in consultation with and involving workers and their representatives, and the safety and health committee, where appropriate.

The implementation of a “decision to change” should ensure that all affected members of the organization are properly informed and trained.

For further information of how organizations can reduce the risks through hazard identification and risk assessment see the section on controlling the risks.

Emergency prevention, preparedness and response

Emergency prevention, preparedness and response arrangements should be established and maintained. These arrangements should identify the potential for accidents and emergency situations, and address the prevention of OSH risks associated with them. Quick and effective action may help to ease the situation and reduce the consequences. However, in emergencies people are more likely to respond reliably if they:
  • are well trained and competent;
  • take part in regular and realistic practice;
  • have clearly agreed, recorded and rehearsed plans, actions and responsibilities.
The arrangements should be made according to the size and nature of activity of the organization.

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The arrangements should:
  • ensure that the necessary information, internal communication and coordination are provided to protect all people in the event of an emergency at the worksite;
  • provide information to, and communication with, the relevant competent authorities, and the neighbourhood and emergency response services;
  • address first-aid and medical assistance, firefighting and evacuation of all people at the worksite; and
  • provide relevant information and training to all members of the organization, at all levels, including regular exercises in emergency prevention, preparedness and response procedures.
Emergency prevention, preparedness and response arrangements should be established in cooperation with external emergency services and other bodies where applicable.

Have employers considered the following matters with regards to emergency procedures?
  • What might happen and how the alarm will be raised. Not forgetting night and shift working, weekends and times when the premises are closed, e.g. holidays.
  • Planning what to do, including how to call the emergency services. Helping them by clearly marking the premises from the road. Is there a simple plan showing the location of hazardous items.
  • Where to go to reach a place of safety or to get rescue equipment. Are suitable forms of emergency lighting provided?
  • The number of emergency exits so that everyone can escape quickly, and are emergency doors and escape routes kept unobstructed and clearly marked.
  • Have competent people been nominated to take control (a competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage safety and health).
  • Deciding which other key people they need, such as a nominated incident controller, someone who is able to provide technical and other site-specific information if necessary, or first-aiders.
  • Have essential actions been planned such as emergency plant shutdown, isolation or making processes safe. Clearly identify important items like shut-off valves and electrical isolators etc.
  • Has everyone been trained in emergency procedures. Not forgetting the needs of people with disabilities and vulnerable workers.
  • Work should not resume after an emergency if a serious danger remains. If you have any doubts ask for assistance from the emergency services.


Procedures should be established and maintained to ensure that:
  • compliance with safety and health requirements for the organization is identified, evaluated and incorporated into purchasing and leasing specifications;
  • national laws and regulations and the organization’s own OSH requirements are identified prior to the procurement of goods and services; and
  • arrangements are made to achieve conformance to the requirements prior to their use.


Arrangements should be established and maintained for ensuring that the organization’s safety and health requirements, or at least the equivalent, are applied to contractors and their workers.

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Arrangements for contractors working on site should:
  • include OSH criteria in procedures for evaluating and selecting contractors;
  • establish effective ongoing communication and coordination between appropriate levels of the organization and the contractor prior to commencing work. This should include provisions for communicating hazards and the measures to prevent and control them;
  • include arrangements for reporting of work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents among the contractors’ workers while performing work for the organization;
  • provide relevant workplace safety and health hazard awareness and training to contractors or their workers prior to commencing work and as work progresses, as necessary;
  • regularly monitor OSH performance of contractor activities on site; and
  • ensure that on-site OSH procedures and arrangements are followed by the contractor(s).


Performance monitoring and measurement

Procedures to monitor, measure and record OSH performance on a regular basis should be developed, established and periodically reviewed. This activity is vital and many subject areas can be studied to establish what is working well and what could be improved. Responsibility, accountability and authority for monitoring at different levels in the management structure should be allocated.

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The selection of performance indicators should be according to the size and nature of activity of the organization and the OSH objectives.

Both qualitative and quantitative measures appropriate to the needs of the organization should be considered. These should:
  • be based on the organization’s identified hazards and risks, the commitments in the OSH policy and the OSH objectives; and
  • support the organization’s evaluation process, including the management review.

Performance monitoring and measurement should:
  • be used as a means of determining the extent to which OSH policy and objectives are being implemented and risks are controlled;
  • include both active and reactive monitoring, and not be based only upon work related injury, ill health, disease and incident statistics; and
  • be recorded.

Monitoring should provide:
  • feedback on OSH performance;
  • information to determine whether the day-to-day arrangements for hazard and risk identification, prevention and control are in place and operating effectively; and
  • the basis for decisions about improvement in hazard identification and risk control, and the OSH management system.

Active monitoring should contain the elements necessary to have a proactive system and should include:
  • monitoring of the achievement of specific plans, established performance criteria and objectives;
  • the systematic inspection of work systems, premises, plant and equipment;
  • surveillance of the working environment, including work organization;
  • surveillance of workers’ health, where appropriate, through suitable medical monitoring or follow-up of workers for early detection of signs and symptoms of harm to health in order to determine the effectiveness of prevention and control measures; and
  • compliance with applicable national laws and regulations, collective agreements and other commitments on OSH to which the organization subscribes.

Reactive monitoring should include the identification, reporting and investigation of:
  • work-related injuries, ill health (including monitoring of aggregate sickness absence records), diseases and incidents;
  • other losses, such as damage to property;
  • deficient safety and health performance, and OSH management system failures; and
  • workers’ rehabilitation and health-restoration programmes.

Investigation of work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents, and their impact on safety and health performance

The investigation of the origin and underlying causes of work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents should identify any failures in the OSH management system and should be documented.

Such investigations should be carried out by competent persons, with the appropriate participation of workers and their representatives.

The results of such investigations should be communicated to the safety and health committee, where it exists, and the committee should make appropriate recommendations.

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The results of investigations, in addition to any recommendations from the safety and health committee, should be communicated to appropriate persons for corrective action, included in the management review and considered for continual improvement activities.

The corrective action resulting from such investigations should be implemented in order to avoid repetition of work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents.

Reports produced by external investigative agencies, such as inspectorates and social insurance institutions, should be acted upon in the same manner as internal investigations, taking into account issues of confidentiality.

For further information on this topic see the section on accidents and investigations.


Arrangements to conduct periodic audits are to be established in order to determine whether the OSH management system and its elements are in place, adequate, and effective in protecting the safety and health of workers and preventing incidents.

An audit policy and programme should be developed, which includes a designation of auditor competency, the audit scope, the frequency of audits, audit methodology and reporting.

The audit includes an evaluation of the organization’s OSH management system elements or a subset of these, as appropriate.
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The audit should cover:
  • OSH policy;
  • worker participation;
  • responsibility and accountability;
  • competence and training;
  • OSH management system documentation;
  • communication;
  • system planning, development and implementation;
  • prevention and control measures;
  • management of change;
  • emergency prevention, preparedness and response;
  • procurement;
  • contracting;
  • performance monitoring and measurement;
  • investigation of work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incidents, and their impact on safety and health performance;
  • audit;
  • management review;
  • preventive and corrective action;
  • continual improvement; and
  • any other audit criteria or elements that may be appropriate.

The audit conclusion should determine whether the implemented OSH management system elements or a subset of these:
  • are effective in meeting the organization’s OSH policy and objectives;
  • are effective in promoting full worker participation;
  • respond to the results of OSH performance evaluation and previous audits;
  • enable the organization to achieve compliance with relevant national laws and regulations; and
  • fulfil the goals of continual improvement and best OSH practice.

Audits should be conducted by competent persons internal or external to the organization who are independent of the activity being audited.

The audit results and audit conclusions should be communicated to those responsible for corrective action.

Consultation on selection of the auditor and all stages of the workplace audit, including analysis of results, are subject to worker participation, as appropriate.

Management review

Management reviews should:
  • evaluate the overall strategy of the OSH management system to determine whether it meets planned performance objectives;
  • evaluate the OSH management system’s ability to meet the overall needs of the organization and its stakeholders, including its workers and the regulatory authorities;
  • evaluate the need for changes to the OSH management system, including OSH policy and objectives;
  • identify what action is necessary to remedy any deficiencies in a timely manner, including adaptations of other aspects of the organization’s management structure and performance measurement;
  • provide the feedback direction, including the determination of priorities, for meaningful planning and continual improvement;
  • evaluate progress towards the organization’s OSH objectives and corrective action activities; and
  • evaluate the effectiveness of follow-up actions from earlier management reviews.
The frequency and scope of periodic reviews of the OSH management system by the employer or the most senior accountable person should be defined according to the organization’s needs and conditions.

The management review should consider:
  • the results of work-related injuries, ill health, diseases and incident investigations; performance monitoring and measurement; and audit activities; and
  • additional internal and external inputs as well as changes, including organizational changes, that could affect the OSH management system.

The findings of the management review should be recorded and formally communicated to:
  • the persons responsible for the relevant element(s) of the OSH management system so that they may take appropriate action; and
  • the safety and health committee, workers and their representatives.

Action for Improvement

Preventive and corrective action

Arrangements should be established and maintained for preventive and corrective action resulting from OSH management system performance monitoring and measurement, OSH management system audits and management reviews. These arrangements should include:
  • identifying and analysing the root causes of any non-conformities with relevant OSH regulations and/or OSH management systems arrangements; and
  • initiating, planning, implementing, checking the effectiveness of and documenting corrective and preventive action, including changes to the OSH management system itself.
When the evaluation of the OSH management system or other sources show that preventive and protective measures for hazards and risks are inadequate or likely to become inadequate, the measures should be addressed according to the recognized hierarchy of prevention and control measures, and completed and documented, as appropriate and in a timely manner.

Continual improvement

Arrangements should be established and maintained for the continual improvement of the relevant elements of the OSH management system and the system as a whole.

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The arrangements should take into account:
  • the OSH objectives of the organization;
  • the results of hazard and risk identifications and assessments;
  • the results of performance monitoring and measurements;
  • the investigation of work-related injuries, diseases, ill health and incidents, and the results and recommendations of audits;
  • the outcomes of the management review;
  • the recommendations for improvement from all members of the organization, including the safety and health committee, where it exists;
  • changes in national laws and regulations, voluntary programmes and collective agreements;
  • new relevant information; and
  • results of health protection and promotion programmes.
The safety and health processes and performance of the organization should be compared with others in order to improve health and safety performance.

Find out more
  1. Further information see managing health and safety 
  2. To help you structure a policy, there is an example and an interactive template on the HSE website

Controlling the Risks

Risk assessments

As part of managing the safety and health of the organization, the employer must identify the hazards and control the risks in their workplace. To do this they need to think about what might cause harm to workers and others and decide whether they are doing enough to prevent that.

This process is known as risk assessment.

Risk assessment is about identifying and taking sensible and proportionate measures to control the risks in the workplace, not about creating huge amounts of paperwork.

Organizations are probably already taking steps to protect their workers, but the risk assessment will help them decide whether they should be doing more.

Employers should think about how accidents and ill health could happen and concentrate on real risks – those that are most likely and which will cause the most harm. 

For some risks, national legislation may require particular control measures. The organization’s assessment will help identify whether it needs to look at certain risks and these particular control measures in more detail.

Mandated control measures should be assessed as part of the overall risk assessment.

Identify the hazards

One of the most important aspects of the risk assessment is accurately identifying the potential hazards in the workplace. An unidentified hazard cannot be controlled.

Employers in conjunction with their workers can start by walking around the workplace and thinking about any hazards. In other words, what is it about the activities, processes or substances used that could injure workers or harm their health?

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When people work in a place every day it is easy to overlook some hazards, some tips to help employers and workers identify hazards include
  • Check manufacturers’ instructions or data sheets for chemicals and equipment as they can be very helpful in explaining the hazards and putting them in their true perspective.
  • Carefully review accident and ill-health records, as well as near-misses and other incident reports – these often help to identify less obvious hazards.
  • Take account of non-routine operations (e.g. maintenance, cleaning operations or changes in production cycles).
  • Remember to think about long-term hazards to health (e.g. high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances).
There are many hazards with a recognized risk of harm, for example working at height, working with chemicals, unguarded machinery, and asbestos. Depending on the type of work conducted, there may be other hazards that are relevant to the organization.

Who might be harmed?

Then think how workers (or others who may be present such as contractors or visitors) might be harmed. Asking the workers what they think the hazards are is essential, as they may notice things that are not obvious and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks.

For each hazard employers need to be clear about who might be harmed – it will help them identify the best way of controlling the risk. That doesn’t mean listing everyone by name, but rather identifying groups of workers/people (e.g. ‘people working in the storeroom’ or ‘passers-by’).

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  • Some workers may have particular requirements, for example new and young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers, people with disabilities, temporary workers, contractors, homeworkers and lone workers.
  • Think about people who might not be in the workplace all the time, such as visitors, contractors and maintenance workers.
  • Take members of the public into account if they could be harmed by the work activities.
  • If the workplace is shared with another business, consider how each organization’s work affects their own workers and others. Organization’s should talk to each other and make sure controls are in place.
  • Ask workers if there is anyone that may have been over looked.

Evaluate the risks

Having identified the hazards, organizations then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur, i.e. the level of risk and what to do about it.

Risk is a part of everyday life and organizations are not expected to eliminate all risks. What they must do is make sure they know about the main risks and the things they need to do to manage them responsibly. Generally, they need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm.

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The risk assessment should only include what could reasonably be expected to be known – organizations are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks. They should look at what they are already doing and the control measures already have in place ensuring that the OSH hierarchy of controls are followed namely;
  • avoiding risks
  • evaluating the risks
  • combating the risks at source
  • adapting the work to the individual
  • adapting to technical progress
  • replacing the dangerous by the non- or the less dangerous
  • developing a coherent overall prevention policy
  • prioritizing collective protective measures (over individual protective measures)
  • giving appropriate instructions to the workers.

Improving safety and health need not cost a lot. For instance, placing a mirror on a blind corner to help prevent vehicle accidents is a low-cost precaution considering the risks. Failure to take simple precautions can cost organizations a lot more if an accident does happen.

Organizations must involve their workers, so they can be sure that what they propose to do will work in practice and won’t introduce any new hazards.

If organizations control a number of similar workplaces containing similar activities, they could produce a ‘model’ risk assessment reflecting the common hazards and risks associated with these activities.

In some cases ‘model’ assessments are developed by trade associations, employers’ bodies or other organizations concerned with a particular activity. Employers may decide to apply these ‘model’ assessments at each workplace, but should only do so if they:
  • are satisfied that the ‘model’ assessment is appropriate to their type of work;
  • adapt the ‘model’ to the detail of their own work situations, including any extension necessary to cover hazards and risks not referred to in the ‘model’.

Record the findings

It is good practice if organizations make a record of their significant findings – the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what is in place to control the risks. Any record produced should be clear, practical and focused on control measures.

The paperwork produced as part of the risk assessment is intended to assist organizations to communicate and manage the risks in their business. For most this does not need to be a complex exercise – just note the main points down about the significant risks and what was concluded.

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In many, but not all instances e.g. for complex processes, when writing down results it can be kept simple, for example ‘fume from welding – local exhaust ventilation used and regularly checked’.

The risk assessment must be appropriate for the activity being assessed, i.e. it shows that the organization:
  • conducted a proper check;
  • they asked who might be affected;
  • they dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved;
  • that the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low;
  • they involved their workers or their representatives in the process.

Where the nature of the work changes fairly frequently or the workplace changes and develops (e.g. a construction site), or where workers move from site to site, the risk assessment may have to concentrate more on a broad range of risks that can be anticipated.

If the risk assessment identifies a number of hazards, they need to be put in order of importance and the most serious risks should be addressed first.

Organizations should identify long-term solutions for the risks with the biggest consequences, as well as those risks most likely to cause accidents or ill health. They should also establish whether there are improvements that can be implemented quickly, even temporarily, until more reliable controls can be put in place.

Remember, the greater the hazard the more robust and reliable the control measures to control the risk of an injury occurring will need to be.

Regularly review the risk assessment

Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, organizations will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new hazards. So it makes sense to review what is being done an ongoing basis, the risk assessment ought to be reviewed and organizations should ask themselves:
  • Have there been any significant changes?
  • Are there improvements still needed to be made?
  • Have workers spotted a problem?
  • Have we learnt anything from accidents or near misses?
Organizations must make sure the risk assessment stays up to date.

Find out more
  1. Training package on workplace risk assessment and management for small and medium-sized enterprises  
  2. A 5 step guide for employers, workers and their representatives on conducting workplace risk assessments 
  3. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work online interactive Risk Assessment  
  4. HSE’s risk management website 
  5. Napo in…risk assessment online
  6. Napo in  ... risky business

Accidents and Investigations

Employers should monitor the effectiveness of the measures they put in place to control the risks in their workplace. As part of the monitoring, they should investigate incidents to ensure that corrective action is taken, learning is shared and any necessary improvements are put in place.

Investigations will help them to:
  • identify why their existing control measures failed and what improvements or additional measures are needed;
  • plan to prevent the incident from happening again;
  • point to areas where the risk assessment needs reviewing;
  • improve risk control in the workplace in the future.
Reporting incidents (Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981) should not stop employers from carrying out their own investigation to ensure risks in their workplace are controlled efficiently. An investigation is not an end in itself, but the first step in preventing future adverse events that includes:
  • occupational accidents;
  • occupational diseases;
  • dangerous occurrences;
  • commuting accidents.
Are these matters being reported to the correct authorities in a timely manner and in accordance with national legislation?

Find out more
  1. Investigation of occupational accidents and diseases - A practical guide for labour inspectors.The guide provides inspectors with information on the importance of, and a suggested methodology for, conducting effective investigations and compiling reports. 

Multi-employer workplaces

Where employers share workplaces (whether on a temporary or permanent basis), they need to co-operate with each other to comply with their respective health and safety obligations. Many national OSH systems have specific requirements to ensure worker safety on multi-employer worksites.

Each employer needs to take all reasonable steps to co-ordinate the measures they adopt to fulfil those obligations. They also need to tell the other employers about any risks their work activities could present to their employees, both on- and off-site.

These requirements apply to self-employed people where they share a workplace with other employers or where they share a workplace with other self-employed people.

Deciding who can help employers with their duties

Employers should appoint someone competent to help them meet their safety and health duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage safety and health. In many cases, employers will know the risks in their own business best. This will mean that they are the competent person and can carry out the risk assessments themselves.

More information
Employers could appoint one or a combination of:
  • themselves;
  • one or more of their workers;
  • someone from outside their business.
Many businesses can develop the necessary expertise in-house and are well equipped to manage safety and health themselves. However, there are some things you may not be able to do for yourself and you may decide to get external help.

Possible sources of advice include;
  • trade associations;
  • safety groups;
  • trade unions;
  • safety and health training providers;
  • safety and health equipment suppliers.
Identifying and deciding what help they need is very important. If they appoint someone to help them they must ensure that they are competent to carry out the tasks given to them and that they are provided with adequate information and support. If employers are not clear about what they want, they probably won’t get the help they need.

Some points organizations should consider if using external help
  • Organizations must make sure they clearly explain what is needed and check that this is understood. Asking the consultants to explain what they understand the work to be and what they will do, when they will do it, and what they will charge.
  • Check the consultant is competent ask for evidence of relevant safety and health training/knowledge, such as formal qualifications or practical experience of providing advice in the industry/area of work.
  • Can the consultant explain why they are competent to advise the organization on the particular problem?
  • Is the consultant a member of a professional body? If in doubt, the organization should check with the professional body on what training, knowledge or qualifications are relevant and whether the consultant is listed as a member.
  • Organizations should shop around to find the right help at the right price. If buying equipment or another service, the first offer is not always accepted, so do the same with safety and health advice.
  • Finally organizations should consider whether they have received the help they needed. Do they have a practical, sensible solution to the problem? Or have they ended up with something completely ‘over the top’ or a mountain of useless paperwork? If they are not happy with the solution, ask for an explanation and whether there may be a simpler alternative.
Organizations should try to make sure that they get a good follow-up service and are able to get further advice on any issues that arise from implementing the recommendations.

Consulting Workers

Workplaces where workers are involved in taking decisions about safety and health are safer and healthier. It is therefore vital that employers consult workers and their representatives (if present) on all matters that affect occupational safety and health.

Collaboration with workers helps employers to manage safety and health in a practical way by:
  • helping them spot workplace risks;
  • making sure safety and health controls are practical;
  • increasing the level of commitment to working in a safe and healthy way;
  • providing them with feedback on the effectiveness of their safety and health arrangements and control measures.
Employers must consult all their workers, in good time, on safety and health matters. In workplaces where a trade union is recognized, this will be through union safety and health representatives. In non-unionized workplaces, they can consult either directly or through other elected representatives.

Representatives’ main role is to talk to their employer about issues affecting the safety and health of workers they represent in the workplace. Employers should ensure that any representatives receive paid time off during normal working hours so they can carry out their duties. They should also receive suitable training and access to any facilities needed to help them in their role.

Consultation involves employers not only giving information to workers but also listening to them and taking account of what they say before making decisions on safety and health. Employers have to give workers or their representative’s information to allow full and effective participation in consultation.

This should include:
  • risks arising from their work;
  • proposals to manage and/or control these risks;
  • what to do if workers are exposed to a risk;
  • the best ways of providing information and training.
Find out more
  1. For more information see HSE’s website Consulting and involving your workers 
  2. Napo in... working together

Providing Training and Information

All workers need to know how to work safely and without risks to health. Employers must provide clear instructions, information and adequate training for their workers. Workers also have responsibilities with regards to safety and health including cooperating with their employers and following the instructions they have received.

Employers must not forget contractors and self-employed people who may be working for them and make sure everyone has information on:
  • hazards and risks they may face;
  • measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks;
  • how to follow any emergency procedures.
Some workers may have particular training needs, for example:
  • new recruits need basic induction training in how to work safely, including arrangements for first aid, fire and evacuation;
  • people changing jobs or taking on extra responsibilities need to know about any new safety and health implications;
  • young workers are particularly vulnerable to accidents and employers need to pay particular attention to their needs, so their training should be a priority. It is also important that new, inexperienced or young workers are adequately supervised;
  • worker representatives or safety representatives will require training that reflects their responsibilities;
  • some people’s skills may need updating by refresher training.
The employer’s risk assessment should identify any further training needs associated with specific risks. If they have identified danger areas in their workplace, they must ensure that their workers receive adequate instruction and training on precautions they must take before entering these areas.

Employers also need to think about any legal requirements for specific job training. If employers introduce new equipment, technology or changes to working practices/systems, their workers will need to know about any new safety and health implications.

Workers also have responsibilities under international labour standards with regards to safety and health namely to:
  • take care of their own safety and health and that of others;
  • co-operate with employers to help them comply with their obligations;
  • follow any instructions or safety and health training employers provide;
  • tell employers about any work situations that present imminent and serious danger to their life or health;
  • let you know about any other failings they identify in your safety and health arrangements.
Find out more
  1. Health and safety training: A brief guide Leaflet

Providing supervision

Employers must provide an adequate and appropriate level of supervision for their workers;
  • Supervisors need to know what is expected from them in terms of safety and health. They need to understand the employer’s safety and health policy, where they fit in, and how the employer wants safety and health managed.
  • Supervisors may need training in the specific hazards of the employer’s processes and how the risks are expected to be controlled.
  • New, inexperienced or young people, as well as those whose first language is not that of the country, are very likely to need more supervision than others. Employers must ensure workers know how to raise concerns and supervisors are familiar with the possible problems due to unfamiliarity, inexperience and communication difficulties.
  • Supervisors need to ensure that workers in their charge understand risks associated with the work environment and measures to control them.
  • Supervisors will need to make sure the control measures to protect against risk are up to date and are being properly used, maintained and monitored.
  • Employers must also ensure they have arrangements in place to check the work of contractors is being done.
Effective supervision can help employers monitor the effectiveness of the training that people have received, and whether workers have the necessary capacity and competence to do the job.

Find out more
  1. Improving the Safety and Health of Young Workers 

First aid

Employers need to assess their first-aid requirements to help them decide what equipment and facilities they need, and how many first-aid personnel they should provide.

The minimum first-aid provision in any workplace is:
  • a suitably stocked first-aid box;
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements.
Employers also need to put up notices telling their workers where they can find:
  • the first-aiders or appointed persons;
  • the first-aid box.
Their assessment may also indicate that they should provide a first-aid room, particularly where their work involves certain hazards, including some of those found in chemical industries and on large construction sites or if required by national legislation.

The self-employed should have equipment to be able to provide first aid to themselves at work. They should make an assessment of the hazards and risks in their workplace and establish an appropriate level of first-aid provision.

If they carry out low-risk activities (e.g. clerical work) in their own home, they may only need to provide first-aid equipment appropriate to their normal domestic needs. If their work involves driving long distances or they are continuously on the road, their assessment may identify the need to keep a personal first-aid kit in their vehicle.

Find out more
  1. See HSE’s first aid site for more information 
  2. First aid at work: Your questions answered 

Safety signs

Employers must provide safety signs if there is a significant risk that can’t be avoided or controlled in any other way, such as through safe systems of work or engineering controls.

There is no need for employers to provide safety signs if they don’t help reduce the risk or if the risk isn’t significant. This applies to all places and activities where people are employed. The installed safety signs must be relevant there is no benefit to installing safety signs detailing equipment that is not required as this tends to mean that workers ignore all the signs and requirements!

Employers should, where necessary:
  • use road traffic signs in workplaces to regulate road traffic;
  • maintain the safety signs they provide;
  • explain unfamiliar signs to their workers and tell them what they need to do when they see safety signs.
Find out more
  1. Napo in ...Best signs story