General concepts

 Assessment of occupational
risk - general concepts
 

What is occupational risk?

Simply put, occupational risk means the probability of someone being injured in connection with an existing threat.

According to the definition in (§ 2, point 7) the Resolution of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 26 September 1997 on the general OSH regulations, (Journal of Laws no. 129, item 844) as amended (Journal of Laws 2002 r, No. 91, item 811), occupational risk is the probability of the emergence of detrimental incidents connected with the work conducted, resulting in losses, in particular the appearance of detrimental effects on health among workers as a result of occupational threats in the working environment or the method of performing work.  

Depending on the value of the probability and the degree of health loss by the injured party (gravity of the consequences), occupational risk may be:

Small or medium

- such a risk may be considered permissible


Large

- such risk is not permissible.


The table below may help define whether the risk is small, medium or large small, medium, large.

  Gravity of the consequences
Probability  
Low probability small small medium
Probable small medium large
Highly probable medium large large


Source: PN-N-18002:2000 "Occupational safety and health management systems. General guidelines to evaluating occupational risk"


A low probability of consequences of threats refers to those, which should not take place throughout the whole of the period of a worker's occupational activity.

Probable consequences of threats are those, which may take place no more frequently than several times during the period of a worker's occupational activity.

Highly probable consequences of threats are those, which could take place many times during the period of a worker's occupational activity.

The gravity of the consequences in small, if the injuries or diseases that arise as a consequence do not cause long term ailments and absenteeism from work (e.g. headaches, minor bruises and injuries, soreness of the eyes  etc.)

The gravity of the consequences is medium, if the injuries or diseases that arise as a consequence cause minor, but long term or recurring ailments and are related to short periods of absence (e.g. injuries, skin allergies, non-complicated fractures etc.)

The gravity of the consequences is large, if the injuries or diseases that arise as a consequence cause serious and long term ailments and/or death (e.g. 3rd degree burns, amputation, occupation damage to hearing etc.)


What is an assessment of occupational risk?

An assessment of occupational risk is nothing more than:
A careful review of the work performed and the place in which it is performed, as well as a definition of the factors (e.g. chemical substances, noise, incorrect lighting) that can have a detrimental effect on the health of the workers by stating whether the risk related to the action of these factors is:Permissible

- this is the case where sufficient measures have been taken to protect the workers from the actions of these factors


Non-permissible

- further steps should then be taken and further means of protection should be used.


Who should assess occupational risk?

According to the law, the assessment of occupational risk is obligatory.
If the company is small and the employer has a good knowledge of the work performed there, he can assess the risk himself.  In a larger company, the assessment of the occupational risk can be undertaken by competent workers, ideally together with the OSH Specialist.  It is also possible to ask for help from external specialists, but it should be remembered that the employer is always responsible for the correct assessment of occupational risk.

How should occupational risk be assessed at work posts?

Risk assessment should be undertaken as simply as possible.  In many companies (e.g. trading, service and small production companies), there are few threats and these can be easily identified.  Their identification and the assessment of the related occupational risk should be based on common sense.


Wherever possible it is recommended that occupational risk is estimated on the basis of values that characterise the threat. This type of assessment is possible in the case of having the results of measurements of harmful factors, in particular for those factors for which the maximum permissible dose or concentration (MPD or MPC) have been defined - currently in the Resolution of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 17 June 1998 on the maximum permissible concentrations and doses of factors that are harmful to the health in the working environment  (Journal of Laws no. 79, item 513), as amended (Journal of Laws 2002, No. 217, item 1833). The risk may be assessed as large, if the parameter characterising the worker's exposure exceeds the value of MPD or MPC.  If the parameter characterising the exposure does not exceed half the value of MPC or MPD, occupational risk can be assessed as small.  The general guidelines for assessing occupational risk on a three point scale, based on values characterising exposure have been presented in the table below.  (The indicators provided on the assessment of occupational risk do not include the reduction in exposure as a result of the use of personal protective equipment).

Level of values
characterising exposure (P)
Assessment of occupational risk
P > Pmax Large risk
0.5 Pmax ≤ P ≤ Pmax Medium risk
P < 0.5 Pmax Small risk


Source: PN-N-18002:2000 "Occupational safety and health management systems. General guidelines to evaluating occupational risk"

Pmax means the permissible value characterising the exposure, defined in general on the basis of the regulations in force (this may be an appropriate value of MPC - the highest permissible concentration or MPD - the highest permissible dose).  Should there not be any specific requirements for the value of Pmax, it can be defined by using e.g. expert opinions and/or account can be taken of the opinions of the workers.

 
See also:

 

Module of the STER System supporting selection of personal protective equipment

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