Risk analysis

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    Risk analysis

    It is important for the risk analysis to be based on a global and interactive analysis of all professional risks in a business. One of the greatest difficulties of risk analysis is the many possible risks involved in businesses: safety (fire, electricity, working at height, slipping, falling, etc.) hazardous chemicals, biological and physical agents, psychosocial risks, musculoskeletal disorders, etc.

    Although there are many risk analysis methods, there is no obligation to use one in preference to another; however there is an obligation to achieve results in terms of prevention. There is no obligation to use particular means, but there are objectives that must be achieved. It is up to the employer to decide how to achieve them.

    To this end, the employer determines:

    • the means to be used for the policy on the welfare of workers at work, and how the policy should be implemented;
    • the powers and responsibilities of those charged with applying that policy.

    However, the choice of risk analysis method is important. It must reflect the extent of knowledge within the business and the objectives to be met: raising awareness among workers, identifying and classifying the risks, determining which departments or units run the most risks, defining preventive measures, investigating how many people have health problems, etc.

    Before choosing the best method or methods, it is important for all those involved (employers, management, experts such as the insurance companies’ preventive services, the prevention advisors of the internal and external service for prevention and protection at work and the workers) to ask the right questions and define the objectives clearly. The risk analysis must be comprehensive. This is a legal requirement, since there are connections between the various risks. 

    The analysis is therefore performed on three levels:

    • the organisation as a whole;
    • each group of work places or jobs;
    • each individual worker.

    The risk analysis has three phases:

    • identifying hazards;
    • identifying and specifying risks;
    • evaluating risks.

    The SOBANE strategy

    The SOBANE strategy (in French) is one of the methods businesses can use to develop an effective and sustainable prevention policy. It is free and is distributed by the Directorate-General for Humanisation of Labour of the FPS for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue; it was developed with assistance from the European Social Fund.

    How to find the SOBANE tools?

    • The general brochure describing the SOBANE strategy in detail can be found on our website in French and Dutch.
    • Guides to achieving the first level of the SOBANE strategy (participative risk screening) have been developed for many sectors. They can be downloaded free of charge in French and Dutch.
    • The risk analysis publication sets out various methods which focus on safety can be found on our website in French and Dutch.

    The parties involved in the risk analysis 

    Risk analysis is not just a matter for one person. It requires input from everyone in the business: the employer, management, experts such as the insurance companies’ preventive services, prevention advisors from the internal and external service for prevention and protection at work and all workers.

    • Employers of small or medium-sized enterprises will presumably be able to identify the main risk factors themselves using the Déparis guide (in French), but an external prevention advisor must generally be present for the observation stage, unless the internal prevention advisor has additional level I or II training.
    • Larger businesses must have an internal preventive and protective service. Involving this service will result in a more detailed risk analysis. An external preventive and protective service is enlisted to analyse the tasks and functions for which the internal preventive and protective service does not have the necessary in-house expertise. 

    The prevention advisors

    Prevention advisors with the required skills, means and techniques must assist with the risk analysis. The prevention service has legal duties both to ensure the safety and health of workers and also to assess psychosocial aspects of employment (such as harassment, burn-out, etc.) along with workplace ergonomics and occupational hygiene. Employers must therefore either have staff of their own with the required knowledge and skills, in which case the internal prevention service can perform all the duties assigned to them under the welfare regulations; or, if they do not have the required staff, they must enlist an external service set up and approved specifically to perform these duties. These are usually external prevention advisors who work closely with the internal prevention advisers (but do not replace them, such as the prevention advisor-occupational health doctor, prevention advisor-psychosocial aspects, etc.).

    • The psychosocial risk analysis is performed by the employer with the cooperation of the workers. If the internal service has a prevention advisor-psychosocial aspects, the employer involves him or her in the analysis. If not, and if the analysis is complex, he or she calls in the prevention advisor-psychosocial aspects from the external service.
    • The employer works with the authorised prevention advisor and the prevention advisor-occupational health physician on the risk analysis of all activities that may involve a risk of exposure to biological agents. 

    For specific problems, the employer may enlist experts from outside the business who do not belong to an external service. The purpose of this provision is to enable employers to use specialised agencies to carry out a particular type of technical measurement connected with occupational hygiene, or to provide firefighting training for workers, for example.

    Finally, it is also very important for the analysis methods to be used by and with all of the people involved in the business and hence also with the workers. Their participation in all phases of the risk analysis will allow the most effective and appropriate preventive measures for the conditions on site to be determined quickly. It will also encourage workers to use the measures in practice and comply with them every day.

    For more information about people involved in risk analysis, please see our website in French and Dutch and the Belgian centre of competence for welfare at work in French and Dutch.