Risks in the work environment
As a manager, you are to be aware of, and manage, the physical, organisational and social risks in your unit. Risk management entails you investigating whether there are risks of accidents and illness, and assessing how serious they are and how they are to be addressed.
Contents of this page:
- Risk inventory and examples of sources of risk in the work environment
- Risk assessment
- Risk assessment in view of organisational change
- Risk assessment through OSA game
- Risk assessment of the work environment for pregnant and breast-feeding employees
- Regulations with specific requirements for risk assessment
Conducting a risk inventory involves investigating the work environment and identifying and documenting physical, organisational and social sources of risk. A risk inventory can be done for a division, at the start of a project or before implementing a change. The risk inventory is to be conducted in consultation with the health and safety representative and employees.
Physical risks can be divided into many subcategories such as:
- Mechanical risks from sharp/pointed/moving parts, falling objects, height from the floor and uneven/slippery floors. Potential consequences are falls or crushing, stabbing or cutting injuries.
- Electrical risks can be electrical elements with no protection and overloading of electrical equipment. Potential consequences are death and fire.
- Heat/cold risks can be objects or materials with high or low temperatures. Potential consequences are burns and frostbite.
- Noise risks can result in consequences such as discomfort, fatigue and hearing impairment.
- Vibrations from vibrating equipment can cause tissue damage.
- Radiation risks can be from ionising radiation sources and lasers. The potential consequences are genetic damage and eye injuries.
- Biological/laboratory animals and microbiological risks can cause oversensitivity and infections.
- Chemical risks can, in case of incorrect handling, cause chemical burns, allergy/oversensitivity, poisoning and illness.
- Ergonomic risks can be incorrect working positions, lighting, heavy lifting and repetitive work movements. The consequences can be stress, pain and strain injuries.
- The surrounding environment includes lighting, temperature and snow, for example. Unsuitable surroundings can lead to discomfort, fatigue and strain injuries, falls and slipping injuries.
- Organisational risks concern things like the balance between the demands of work and the conditions for fulfilling one’s work duties. Perceived shortcomings in the organisation of work can potentially affect an employee’s ability to work. Over time, ill health may ensue.
Social risks concern things like the way individuals treat one another. Particular attention must be paid to any signs of victimisation. Shortcomings in workplace relationships can lead to ill health and seriously affect workplace activities.
A risk assessment is a process to establish the severity of a risk. Weighing up the probability of a dangerous event and its potential consequences in the form of injury or ill health enables the severity of a risk to be determined. If the risk is observed to be severe, measures are to be taken immediately.
A risk is to be assessed as severe if it could happen often or if its consequences are serious. Examples of serious consequences are injuries that may result in permanent damage or lead to absence due to illness, or an incident that affects several employees or students at once.
A risk assessment is to be conducted for example for work duties, laboratory exercises, equipment, before implementing a change or when an incident or an accident has occurred. When conducting a risk assessment, it is important to weigh up all aspects that affect the work, such as expertise and experience, temporary employees such as doctoral students and other students, working alone, the design of equipment and the workplace, chemicals, workplace procedures, stress and workload.
- Define and delimit what is to be risk assessed; this could be a working method, a new piece of equipment, workplace ergonomics, or the working atmosphere in a division.
- Work together in a group with the manager, the health and safety representative, and the employees who are potentially at risk.
- Gather information, for example instructions, manuals, safety data sheets.
- Conduct a risk assessment, see template below.
- Specific risk assessments for chemical products are conducted in KLARA.
Read more about KLARA.
- Document the risks, decide on measures and draw up an action plan.
- The health and safety representative and the manager are to participate in and sign the risk assessment.
Base your risk assessment on the following questions:
- How likely is it that something unexpected will occur?
- Could several employees be exposed to the risks?
- What work duties entail particularly high risks?
- How often and for how long is an employee exposed to the risks?
- What ill health or injury could result from the risks?
The managers, staff and students concerned are to be aware of the risks that arise in their work. It is therefore important to communicate the results of the risk assessments to all those involved. Risk assessments must always be documented in writing and there are to be written procedures in place for work duties in which serious risks have been identified.
A risk assessment is not static but needs to be revised on a regular basis to remain up to date. Risk and impact assessments are, however, an official document and must therefore be registered. The situation is to determine whether for example the updated measures in the action plan are so extensive that a new document is to be added to the registered file.
A template for risk assessment with its associated action plan is available in the right-hand column of this page.
When organisational changes are planned, the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s regulations stipulate that the employer is to assess whether the changes entail risks from a work environment perspective. Examples of such changes are:
• The introduction of new equipment, or modification of existing equipment.
• Organisational changes such as staff changes, new procedures or working methods.
• In case of new or modified handling of chemical products, microbiological sources of risk or flammable goods.
• Changes to rules or instructions.
Within Lund University, the OSA game can be used as a way of investigating the organisational and social work environment. The OSA game is a basis for discussion deriving from the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s regulation AFS 2015:4. The game constitutes a risk assessment (green-amber-red), in which a group or a division discusses statements formulated on the basis of the regulation, resulting in an action plan. The game consists of a board and sets of cards that are available in both Swedish and English. Contact your faculty’s work environment coordinator or your nearest HR officer for more information.
To prevent pregnant women, new mothers and breast-feeding mothers from being exposed to factors or circumstances at work that could cause ill health and accidents, a risk assessment of their work environment is to be conducted.
In addition to the requirements for risk assessment stipulated by systematic work environment management, there are a number of regulations in the work environment legislation that set specific requirements for risk assessment. For example, microbiological work, work in a potentially explosive environment, lifting devices, machine operation, chemicals and devices under pressure. It is important to keep abreast of the requirements that apply to your particular environment.
Contact your nearest HR function or work environment coordinator at faculty level/equivalent.