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Step 3: Assess

What does assess mean?

To assess hazards means to determine whether there is a risk for the employees and, as a consequence, there is a need for action regarding occupational safety and health measures. In so doing, every individual hazard you determined must be evaluated and documented. The template Assessing the hazards made available by the occupational health and safety administration of North-Rhine Westphalia illustrates how you can evaluate and document hazards.

Which aids for assessing hazards may I use?

Estimate whether the identified hazards may result in an accident or other adverse health effects. Start assessing hazards by checking and correspondingly documenting the following:

1. Comparison with standardised protection goals

(legally specified minimum requirements)

Look up the corresponding legal references for all determined hazards. If the determined hazards have already been specified in provisions (laws, ordinances, accident prevention regulations, technical rules) laid down by the state or the occupational insurance association and if there are corresponding provisions, these must be met in order to achieve the required protection goal – the safe target condition.

One example in this regard includes the occupational exposure limits for hazardous substances. These specify the maximum concentration of a substance (in the air) that may be permitted without worries. In this case, experts have already evaluated the hazard.

Detailed statements on legally specific minimum requirements for the individual hazard factors can be found in our section Expert knowledge.

Please note: According to the Safety and Health at Work Act, it is not sufficient to ensure the safety and health protection of the employees at the workplace by means of occupational health and safety measures, but safety and health protection are also to be improved. In order to achieve this goal, the measures must be adapted to the consistently developing state of the art. Depending on the circumstances within the company, it often makes sense and is partially necessary to formulate further-reaching protection goals instead of the minimum requirements.

2. Check whether there are protection level concepts

In ordinances, e.g. the Biological Agents Ordinance and the Hazardous Substances Ordinance , the legislator introduced protection levels. Every protection level describes measures (backup solutions, technology, organisation, protective equipment) and criteria for verifying the efficiency of protective measures taken (or already existing).

For example, if there are no substance- or activity-related specific provisions regarding protective measures, e.g. in technical rules for hazardous substances (TRGS), every hazard assessment involves a decision on which protection level is used for an activity involving hazardous substances. The determination of the protection level involves an evaluation of the hazard

3. Obtain information as to whether there are evaluation aids

In order to evaluate hazards, evaluation aids may be used that are recommended by the competent state and occupational insurance association offices. For example, these include the controlling feature method for evaluating when manually handling loads
and the simple measure concept hazardous substance (EMKG).

What do I have to do when there are no specific provisions for the determined hazards?

If you researched the relevant legal references and evaluation aids for all hazard factors and there still are no specific provisions for the determined hazards (as described in step 2), you must evaluate and assess the remaining risks yourself. Determine the possible severity of a risk of accidents or an impairment of health and the likelihood of it occurring. The goal is to reduce the risk to an acceptable extent.

Risk estimation

Within the framework of risk estimation,

  • the extent of the possible damage that may be caused by the hazard being considered and
  • the likelihood of this damage occurring

are estimated.

Risk estimation

Within the framework of risk evaluation, it is determined whether the risk is lower than the highest acceptable risk. If the result of the risk evaluation is that the existing risk is unacceptable, the risk must be reduced.

In the literature you will find different methods you may use in order to assess hazards. Examples include the method according to Nohl (“Risk matrix”) 1) or the decision tree pursuant to DIN EN ISO 13 849-1.

1) Nohl, J.; Thiemecke, H.: Systematik zur Durchführung von Gefährdungsanalysen, Teil I und II, Bremerhaven: Wirtschaftsverlag NW 1988 (Schriftenreihe der Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz Fb 536 und Fb 542)

Tip: The research report of the BAuA F2216 "Risikobeurteilung im Maschinenbau" (risk assessment in mechanical engineering) provides an overview of methods for the risk assessment of machines and is intended to support manufacturers, specifically designers, in implementing the risk assessment required pursuant to the European Machine Directive 2006/42/EC. Based on the representation of the basic approach when assessing a risk and the explanation of essential terms, possible methods and guidelines referring to the individual steps of the risk assessment are presented.