You are here

23/02/2017

Risk assessment for all ages: tools to help you do it right

Identifying potential workplace hazards using risk assessment is the cornerstone of risk prevention and contributes to safer and healthier working lives for all. However, a significant number of organisations still do not do a proper risk assessment and miss this great opportunity to guarantee sustainable work.

OiRA1.jpeg

Luckily, business owners can use online interactive tools to get started. Workplace risk assessment is required by law, yet the process can prove challenging for micro and small companies. This can be due to a lack of resources or adequate know-how to identify risks. In some cases, employers may not even realise there are occupational safety and health (OSH) risks to pay attention to.

Small business owners can use the Online interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA) tools to make sure workers are as safe and healthy as possible. Developed and maintained by EU-OSHA, this platform provides free, sector-specific tools to carry out risk assessment in an easy and standardised way. The tools are translated into many languages and adapted to the national context.

Effective risk assessment must consider the diverse needs of the workforce. As a former article on gender pointed out, there are many factors to keep in mind when talking about diversity, including the specific risks that touch younger and older workers. For instance, younger workers often have less training or confidence to speak out about potential risks, while older workers may experience a reduced physical or psychological ability to perform work-related tasks. It is important to remember, however, that the situation differs for each worker.

OiRA also wants to encourage micro and small businesses to take workforce diversity into account, thus a module specifically on ageing/older workers is made available to OiRA tools developers. It covers information about different OSH risks and offers several preventive measures per risk. For example, older workers should not be excluded from workplace training and skills development. A worker’s roles and responsibilities should be based on capability and objective risk, not on age.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to risk assessment is that each workplace and each worker may face unique OSH risks. That’s why it is important to regularly perform workplace risk assessment and to involve your workers when doing so. If older workers are having a hard time doing manual tasks, maybe simple adjustments can be made to their workstations. They could also evolve to become mentors to younger workers - there’s no need to lose years of valuable experience. Likewise, younger workers can benefit from being made aware of how to take care of their health and the workplace environment so that they form good habits early on.

Whether you are a small business owner in the hairdressing or maritime sector - you can find different risk assessment tools relevant to your workers and based on your national laws. For instance, the EU SHIPSAN ACT Joint Action tool was developed for risk assessment in the maritime sector. A detailed questionnaire leads the identification and evaluation process through various considerations - from general OSH procedures to hazards on board ships or risks associated with working locations such as docks or bridges.

There are also sections on emergency preparedness and vulnerable working groups - with specific questions related to young and older workers. Additional features allow the user to prioritise risks, add comments, and get information on the legal context and importance of each OSH factor.

To learn more about risk assessment tools, visit the OiRA website. And don’t forget to check the Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign website to keep up-to-date with the latest news and events. You can follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, using the hashtags #EUhealthyworkplaces or #OiRAtools. You can also subscribe to our campaign newsletter.