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Health and safety law in Europe

Risk assessments are vital to creating a healthy, safe working environment. You will need to perform a risk assessment to identify and avoid hazards and risks in your workplace, regardless of the size of your business. You can then help to prevent occupational accidents and ill health by taking precautionary measures.

In the European Union (EU), there are no fixed rules about how to perform a risk assessment. You should check the specific legislation for each member state. However, there are two principles, which should always be considered when conducting a risk assessment:

  • try to eliminate all identified risks as the first course of action
  • ensure that all relevant hazards and risks are dealt with, including tasks outside of normal working hours, or in less hazardous departments

The Framework Directive 89/391 covers all EU member states and makes you responsible for ensuring the safety and health of employees at work. The Directive states that risk assessment must be the starting point of a comprehensive occupational safety and health management process. However, each nation can introduce more stringent provisions to protect their workers.

In the UK as well as the EU, there is a simple five-step process to risk assessment. Download the five-step approach to risk assessment from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work website PDF (432K) - Opens in a new window.

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