Skip to content
Last updated: 21.06.2023

Hazard identification and risk assessment

Employers are obligated to assess and identify hazards in the workplace, as well as minimise the risk posed by hazards to people’s physical and psychological health.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to systematically assess the hazards posed by work, the working environment, and working conditions. Hazards must be assessed regularly and monitored continuously, and changes in the working conditions must be investigated without delay.  

If the employer lacks competent hazard assessment personnel, they must use external experts. Hazard assessment (vaarojen arviointi) reports should be made in writing because the occupational health and safety authorities may need to see them. 

There are three parts to hazard identification: 

  • identifying the risk factor posing a hazard 
  • identifying who is exposed to the hazard 
  • assessing the significance of the hazard. 

Identifying risk factors  

Risk factor identification means identifying all the factors in the working environment, stages, and conditions that may pose a risk to the health and safety of workers. This includes identifying hazardous situations that have yet to occur but are still possible. 

In addition to normal daily operations, risk factor identification must include exceptional situations: maintenance; repairs; the commissioning of new tools and devices; and the use of new workers and substitutes. Hazard assessments should be part of all planning related to work and the working environment, including workspaces, tools, and shifts. 

Identifying who is exposed to hazards  

Part of hazard identification is identifying the persons who are exposed to the consequences of risk factors at the workplace. In addition to the immediate workers, this includes customers, nearby workers, and workers who may pass through the area. Investigating chains of events is an essential part of hazard identification. Customer safety must also be considered. 

The following methods may be used to identify hazards: 

  • observations, interviews, and surveys 
  • workplace inspections 
  • checklists 
  • safety analyses. 

Assessing hazard significance (risk assessment) 

Both the likelihood (probability) of identified hazards and their significance for the health and safety of workers (severity) must be assessed. If the employer or their personnel are not competent to assess the risks, the employer must use an external expert. The natural choice for matters of health is the occupational health service. 

All hazards to health must be identified, and they must be primarily eliminated. Hazards that cannot be eliminated must be minimised or protection must be arranged against them. 

Useful links 

See also