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Step 1: Preparation

How do I start?

Prior to starting the actual risk assessment, you should clarify the following:

  1. Who will perform the risk assessment?
  2. How can I capture the organisation of my company?
  3. How can the workplace be divided into reasonable units?

1. Who will perform the risk assessment?

Please find more detailed information on this in our sections "Who consults and supports?" and “Who must be involved?”

2. Capturing the company organisation

The next steps should be based on you capturing all departments and working areas in your company.

The template Capturing the company organisation made available by the occupational health and safety administration of North-Rhine Westphalia is intended for illustrative purposes.

Please also take into account special groups of persons when grasping the company organisation, for example

  • youngsters and adolescents of more than 13 years of age,
  • pregnant women and nursing mothers,
  • rehabilitants, for example sick persons to be reintegrated step by step,
  • temporary workers and employees with insufficient knowledge of the German language,
  • interns, or
  • employees from third-party companies, for example for cleaning, maintenance, construction, training.

3. Division into units

There are different working areas in your company, for example workshop, production, office, sheet shaping, welding area, storage, where specific activities are performed at workstations.

In order to maintain the clarity of the risk assessment, you should initially divide the workplace to be assessed into individual, distinguishable units with similar working conditions and hazards. Document which activities are performed at these workstations and who is responsible for occupational health and safety there. This division forms your basis for documenting the risk assessment regarding the steps 2 to 7. You may, for example, use the organisational charts, personnel deployment schedules, or job descriptions existing within your company as aids for determining the units.

The template Capturing the working areas / persons responsible of the activities made available by the occupational safety and health administration of North-Rhine Westphalia is intended for illustrative purposes.

In this, please note:

  • the more hazards exist, the smaller the selected working areas should be;
  • by reasonably dividing the working areas, as well as systematically capturing identical or different activities in different working areas the extent of the assessments may be limited to the required extent and double working may be avoided.

In the next section you will learn how you can specify the division of the working areas.

How can I specify the task?

Take an efficient and target-oriented approach in the preparation phase already:

  1. check whether the workstations can be divided into stationary and non-stationary ones according to your company structure and derive the corresponding approach for the assessment thereof.
  2. check whether person-related assessments are required for employees requiring special protection and, if required, define protective measures that are adapted to the performance prerequisites.
  3. check whether there are dynamic procedures within your company that must be analysed regarding their hazards and whether a procedure-oriented risk assessment should be used.

Do not only include normal operations in your considerations, but also the downstream and upstream processes and activities. Hence, it must be checked in addition to normal operations which hazards may occur when setting up and testing tools, when commissioning and de-commissioning tools, during transport work, during maintenance and repair, or during malfunctions and failures, for instance.

1. Division into stationary and non-stationary workstations

Stationary workstations

Stationary workstations are assessed in a working area- and activity-related manner. Initially, the hazards for the working area should be determined, followed by the determination of the additionally occurring activity-related hazards at the workstations.

Working area-related

The working area-related assessment lends itself if the same conditions are applicable to several workstations consolidated in one room, for example working environment effects such as noise, air conditioning, illumination. The fact that all employees working here are exposed to the same hazards is characteristic. The unit is the working area. The hazards must only be captured once for every unit. By taking one measure the hazard may be eliminated at several workstations at the same time.

Activity-/workstation-related

The activity-/workstation-related risk assessment is suitable for assessing conditions resulting specifically from the activity or workstation characteristics. In so doing, individual activities or workstations are defined as unit. Based on these units, the hazards for persons performing the same activity are assessed (for instance, maintenance personnel). These persons mostly do not have a fixedly assigned workstation and/or mostly have frequently changing tasks, but are exposed to the same hazards.

Only the hazards resulting from the specific workstation and/or the tools used at this workstation are assessed.

Example:

  • Company type: metal processing
  • Working area: workshop
  • Activity/workstation: welding

Non-stationary workstations

Typically certain occupational groups work on non-stationary workstations (construction and assembly points), for example painters and varnishers, maintenance mechanics, electricians, thatchers, masons or steel workers who often perform recurring activities typical for the occupational group.

The occupational group-related risk assessment lends itself for this kind of workstations.p and then assign the specific activities to this group.

Example:

  • Company type: Sanitary and heating engineering
  • Occupational group: installers
  • Activities: installation, manual transportation, maintenance, etc.

2. Person-related risk assessment for employees requiring special protection

The person-related risk assessment must be performed for activities performed by persons requiring special protection, for instance by handicapped employees, pregnant women and nursing mothers, trainees, professional newcomers, or temporary workers. For adolescents and pregnant women, you must perform a person-related risk assessment. This is required by law.

Example:

  • Company type: metal processing
  • Person: trainee
  • Activity: working with manually operated machines

Deployment of temporary workers

Pursuant to the German Occupational Safety and Health Act, both the lender and the borrower are required to meet their obligations in the field of occupational health and safety when deploying temporary workers.

Lender’s obligations

Pursuant to the Temporary Employment Act (Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz – AÜG), the lender as the employer assumes the personnel responsibility and, for example, is responsible for performing the necessary medical check-ups. He may only lend his employees if these are suitable for the work based on their physical and mental capabilities, as well as their professional qualification. The safety and health measures taken by the lender upon completion of the risk assessment must be documented pursuant to Safety and Health at Work Act § 6 (ArbSchG).

Borrower’s obligations

The managerial responsibility for occupational health and safety and healthcare of the temporary worker shall be incumbent upon the borrower, particularly the decisional authority and the obligation for specific instruction according to the company’s particularities (§ 12 section 2 ArbSchG).

Pursuant to § 11 section 6 AÜG, the activity of the temporary worker with the borrower shall be subject to the occupational health and safety regulation provisions under public law applicable to the company of the borrower. The obligations for the employer resulting hereof shall be incumbent upon the borrower, notwithstanding the lender’s obligations. Specifically, the borrower must inform the temporary workers about risks for safety and health the temporary worker may be exposed to while performing the work, as well as about measures and facilities for averting these risks.

This requires the performance of the risk assessment by the borrower for the workstations of temporary workers! In this context, it must also be clarified which safety and health measures are taken by the borrower in advance. An unambiguously formulated temporary employment agreement serves for legal protection of all parties involved.

3. Procedure-oriented risk assessment

With the help of the procedure-oriented risk assessment, you can analyse individual work tasks, processing sequences, or transport procedures.

The first step is to describe the work task to be performed precisely. Then, the activities to be performed are determined and, where necessary, divided into sub-activities (since this approach normally is part of the planning process, the activities and sub-activities defined therein should be adopted). Then, the relevant hazards for each sub-step are identified and protective measures are defined.

Example "Work task: staging"

Activity 1: preparation

  • Sub-activity 1.1: construction site visit at the installation location

Activity 2: transport

  • Sub-activity 2.1: loading the scaffolding material at the builder’s yard
  • Sub-activity 2.2: transport to the construction site
  • Sub-activity 2.3: unloading the scaffolding material

Activity 3: installation

  • Sub-activity 3.1: installation of the first scaffolding level according to the standard design (pursuant to the assembly instructions)
  • Sub-activity 3.2: installation of the other scaffolding levels according to the standard design (use builder’s hoists for heights over 8 m)
  • Sub-activity 3.3: installation of anchors and bracing elements as the scaffold is installed

What documents from my company can I use?

During the preparation phase, you should collect all documents concerning the selected working area, the selected occupational group, the persons concerned, or the work task.

Hence, it is important to know which procedures, materials, and tools are being used. Investigate whether there are accidents, near misses, work-related diseases, and possible information from the employees regarding deficiencies in the organisation of work.

For example, the documents you should use include:

  • reports and existing on-site visit protocols of the appointed company doctors and occupational health and safety practitioners,
  • reports from the meetings of the committee for occupational safety and health,
  • internal documents on noise measurements, hazardous materials, and device inspections,
  • hazardous substances index,
  • quality management documentation,
  • hygiene schedule, or
  • emergency schemes.

However, you may also determine risks and stresses retrospectively, by including

  • disruptions and accidents,
  • accident reports,
  • sick leave statistics and health reports,
  • occupational disease reports,
  • accident books, or
  • documents on near misses.

into your preparatory measures.