Occupational risk - what is it and how to define it?


The Labor Code requires employers to protect the health and life of their employees. It is he who is responsible for the health and safety at work in the workplace he manages. The employer should also follow the indications related to the employee's health condition issued by a doctor. His duties also include the definition of occupational risk.

Occupational risk - informing the employee

Occupational risk is the probability of occurrence of undesirable events that may cause adverse health effects resulting from occupational hazards occurring in the work environment or related to the way of performing work.

Pursuant to article 226 of the Labor Code, the employer:

  • assesses and documents the occupational risk related to the work performed and applies the necessary preventive measures to reduce the risk,

  • informs employees about the occupational risks associated with the work performed and the principles of protection against threats.

Carrying out the assessment and documentation of occupational risk is the basic obligation of the employer, which applies to every workplace. Informing the employee about the occupational risk should take place before allowing him to work. The employee should sign a confirmation of informing about work-related hazards, which should be attached to the employee's personal file. Proving that an employee has been informed about the risks is of great importance when there is damage caused to him in the course of his work.

Methods of occupational risk assessment

Occupational risk assessment can be understood as thorough checking and risk assessment in the workplace, thanks to which it can be verified whether steps have been taken to eliminate or reduce these hazards. The most common risk assessment method is the Polish Standard PN-N-18002.

It uses two risk parameters:

  • the severity of the consequences of hazards at the workplace,

  • the likelihood of these threats occurring.

The evaluation of these parameters is presented in the table, defining the following levels: low, medium and high for individual threats and the degree of their probability: unlikely, probable and highly probable.

Risk assessment

The employer can carry out the risk assessment on his own if he is well-versed in the technology and type of work to be performed, or he can commission it to health and safety specialists. It should be remembered that the responsibility for the correctness of the prepared assessment always rests with the employer. The risk assessment can be carried out in accordance with the following principles disseminated by the National Labor Inspectorate:

  1. Gathering information needed to carry out an occupational risk assessment.

    1. what are the jobs,

    2. equipment used at work,

    3. dangerous and harmful factors present at workstations,

    4. what people work in the given positions (adolescents, disabled, etc.)

  2. Identification of hazards, determination of hazards for each workplace.

  3. Risk assessment.

    1. the probability of accidents and diseases at the workplace,

    2. the seriousness of the consequences of threats

  4. Determining the actions to eliminate or reduce the occupational risk.
    To do this, you should start with the hazards with the highest risk first, so that the ability to remove the hazard is a priority, and the use of PPE is the last resort.

  5. Documenting the results of the occupational risk assessment.

    1. description of the assessed job position,

    2. the results of the occupational risk assessment,

    3. preventive measures to reduce the risk,

    4. date of the assessment and an indication of the person who carried it out.

Occupational risk assessment is not only the basis for managing occupational health and safety in a company, but also a way to reduce accidents at workplaces and occupational diseases among employees.

General obligations of employers

Pursuant to Article 6 of the Directive of the Council of the European Communities (89/391 / EEC of June 12, 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, the employer should take the necessary measures to:

  • risk prevention,

  • assessing the risks that cannot be avoided,

  • combating sources of threats,

  • replacing dangerous substances with safe or less dangerous ones,

  • provide employees with relevant information and instructions.

The approach of the employee himself is also important while maintaining work safety. The directive also places obligations on him, making the employee responsible for the safety and health of himself and of others who are influenced by his actions at work. It should, inter alia:

  • use personal protective equipment as intended,

  • inform the employer about situations posing a threat to safety and health,

  • cooperate with the employer to ensure safety and health protection at work.

In cases where limiting the risks and replacing the hazardous factors is not sufficient, the employer is obliged to provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment free of charge (Article 237 of the Labor Code). He must also provide employees with work clothing and footwear if the employee's own clothing may be damaged or significantly soiled, as well as due to technical, sanitary or health and safety requirements.

In addition, in order to maintain the safety and health of the employee, the employer may not allow an employee who does not have valid medical examinations and training in the field of health and safety at work.