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Risk assessment

Last updated: 20.02.2023
  • The purpose of a risk assessment is to identify and assess all hazards in the working environment.
  • The risk assessment can be performed by the employer or outsourced as a service.
  • After the risk assessment, an action plan is drawn up to eliminate the problems.

Submission of risk assessment

Employers have to digitally submit their risk assessment of the working environment to the Labour Inspectorate. There are two ways submit the risk assessment:

  • You can assess your risks in our self-service environment. The risk assessment module outlines various hazards and measures to prevent and reduce specific risks, from general problems in the working environment to industry-specific hazards. The risk assessment tool helps to raise the awareness of enterprises with regard to working environment and its associated risks, allows to provide to enterprises the necessary assistance, decision support and feedback in improving the working environment, and motivates enterprises to create safe and healthy working conditions, as well as prepare an action plan for risk mitigation. 
  • If you already have concluded a risk assessment, for example with the help of a service provider, you can upload it in the self-service environment of the Labour Inspectorate at

Only the representative of the enterprise can access the risk assessment of the enterprise, others do not have access to this information. 

If the Labour Inspectorate has started any kind of process involving an enterprise; initiated supervision proceedings, has received a complaint or a tip-off, then according to the Law Enforcement Act and in order to assess any risk factors and to choose preventative and protective measures, the civil servants of the Labour Inspectorate have the right to open and read the risk assessment uploaded to TEIS. If such a process has not been started, the civil servants can only see if and when the risk assessment has been presented. Access to the contents of the risk assesment is not available.

Frequently asked Questions

A risk assessment of the working environment must be submitted via (uploaded to) the Labour Inspectorate’s self-service environment (TEIS) by all employers who have at least one employee working under an employment contract. The obligation to do so arises from § 1, § 12, and § 134 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

No, it does not, because the Labour Inspectorate generally does not investigate single-person businesses. Nevertheless, such a member of the management board / employee may still use the provided tool to prepare a risk assessment of the working environment in the working life information system. Since occupational health and safety are important in all types of jobs and working environments, members of the management board, too, should make efforts to protect their health. While the Labour Inspectorate is unlikely to be able to investigate such companies, it is advisable to give the matter some thought, as safeguarding one’s health is essential.

A risk assessment may also be necessary for the purposes of operating at a common worksite or workplace within the meaning of subsection 5 of § 12 of the OHSA and the following. In the case of a single-person business, it must be borne in mind that the Occupational Health and Safety Act also applies to the work of the management board of a legal person or the substituting body of the management board. If a member of the management board performs work and not just management functions at the company, the law also applies to that member of the management board. In such a case, the work-related risks of the member of the management board / employee working under an employment contract must also be assessed, the member of the management board must undergo a medical examination, and any accidents that they are involved in while working will be considered an accident at work. The obligation has been established, among other reasons, to ensure that members of the management board, too, think about occupational safety and working environment safety and that they do not suffer damage to health when working. Unfortunately, workers at single-person businesses, too, are sometimes injured at work.

An exemption from the obligation to submit a risk assessment of the working environment to the Labour Inspectorate has been granted to security authorities (subsection 2 of § 1 of the OHSA). The exemption applies only to the submission of a risk assessment to the Labour Inspectorate, i.e. such enterprises are still required to prepare a risk assessment and present it to their employees.

In addition, no risk assessment needs to be submitted if the member of the management board has been entered in the Employment Register as a member of the management board and a service provider under another contract under the law of obligations.

NB! When operating in a common working environment with other service providers or employers, the other employers / service providers must be informed of the risks associated with the work. Providing this information still requires the risks to be assessed, but it does not require preparing a risk assessment of the working environment in full form. Service providers are not required to submit information in TEIS, as only risk assessments are uploaded there.

Since 1999, when the Occupational Health and Safety Act came into force, which required every employer to conduct a risk assessment of the working environment, during which they should identify work environment risk factors, measure their parameters and assess the impact on employees' health.

However, the obligation to submit a risk assessment of the working environment to the Labour Inspectorate working environment database electronically was added as of 1 March 2021, see (subsections 134 (7)–(9) of the OHSA).

A risk assessment of the working environment determines the possible dangers in the work environment. A risk assessment of the working environment is needed, above all, so that the person performing the work does not become ill due to their work, i.e. for the prevention of occupational accidents, illnesses caused by work and occupational diseases. 

  • Based on the risk assessment, it is possible to know who the vulnerable persons are. Not all workers are always exposed to a specific risk factor, but each worker must be considered individually. Risk factors are usually associated with a specific job position, workplace or a work process.
  • Based on the risk assessment, it is determined who must undergo a health examination; to whom personal protective equipment must be issued; which safety signs must be installed in the work environment, etc.
  • Based on the risk assessment, we can determine the clauses of internal control, i.e. what are the hazards that we cannot directly eliminate, but which we must constantly pay attention to.
  • Based on the risk assessment, we can determine the necessary safety investments. The risk assessment gives us an overview of the shortcomings in our work environment and highlights the issues that need to be prioritised.

In accordance with subsections 134 (4) and (7) of the OHSA, the employer must prepare the risk assessment in the working environment database or send it to the Labour Inspectorate in a format which can be reproduced in writing. Every employer must appoint a working environment specialist, i.e. an employee with working-environment-related knowledge and skills who the employer has authorised to perform occupational health and safety responsibilities in the enterprise (section 16 of the OHSA). Thus, submitting the risk assessment is the task of the working environment specialist if the employment contract or job description does not assign this obligation to another employee.

Yes, even in the case of part-time work, the employee is affected by various working environment risk factors; these must be assessed and, if necessary, measures must be taken to mitigate the risks and/or prevent their effects (sections 13–134 of the OHSA).

The employer is also responsible for the organisation of occupational health and safety of teleworkers, the law does not provide for exceptions here (sections 13–134 of the OHSA). Read more on the telework topic page.

The law has never limited or regulated the obligation to carry out a risk assessment of the working environment according to the number of employees. Only the obligation to elect an employee representative, i.e. a working environment representative, is related to the number of employees (section 17 of the OHSA).

The working environment representative must be an employee of the enterprise they represent. Therefore, if an employee is not registered as an employee of the parent enterprise, they cannot be elected or registered as a working environment representative. The simplest solution is to register the employee of a subsidiary as an employee of the parent enterprise, possibly only part time, and make a corresponding entry in the Employment Register (section 17 of the OHSA).

Assessing the risks of the work environment associated with your work is primarily your obligation. However, you have the option of agreeing with another employer or service provider to prepare or outsource a risk assessment of the shared work environment. By law, service providers who share the work environment must inform each other about the risks associated with their activities and ensure that their activities do not endanger the workers. However, in order for notification to be possible, the risks associated with everyone's work must be assessed in advance (sections 12 and 134 of the OHSA).

  1. Labour Inspectorate's risk assessment tool in the self-service environment of the Labour InspectorateAlso read the FAQs
  2. Read this Risk Assessment content page thoroughly, familiarise yourself with the risk factors and compile the assessment yourself.
  3. You can outsource a risk assessment from a service provider competent in the field of work environment. A risk assessment cannot be based solely on an oral description of the work environment. Preparing a risk assessment also includes involving the employees who, due to their work process, are able to assess the risks associated with the work.
  1. Is the Labour Inspectorate's risk assessment tool paid for?
    No, it is a free service.
  2. Does it require creating an account?
    No, it is only required to log in to the working life information system at
  3. How long will it take to complete the assessment?
    It all depends on the size of the enterprise, the field of activity and the hazards in the work environment.
  4. The assessment tool does not include the type of my enterprise. What should I do?

The options are:

  • If there is no exact match for the type of enterprise, choose the type of enterprise closest to your field of activity and, if necessary, supplement the existing risks and measures by adding them from the system or describing them manually.
  • Prepare a work environment risk assessment yourself outside the working life information system and then upload the completed document.
  • Outsource the service from a competent service provider dealing with the work environment, who is then able to prepare the risk assessment of the customer's work environment in the working life information system or upload a risk assessment prepared by themselves.

As an example, it is recommended to use the targeted inspections published on the website of the Labour Inspectorate.

Pursuant to subsection 134 (6) of the OHSA, the employer shall prepare the risk assessment in a format which can be reproduced in writing, i.e. it can be processed electronically. The next clause of the same provision further specifies that the employer shall prepare a risk assessment in the working environment database or forward it to the Labour Inspectorate in a format which can be reproduced in writing.

  1. Does it have to be a text file, or a PDF? Does the PDF have to be machine-readable, i.e. the text can be copied?
    The law does not specify this, but it is more convenient for the enterprise and also for the employees if the risk assessment of the working environment is machine-readable and can be copied.
  2. Is a hand-written and scanned document allowed?
    Yes, because it is also a format which can be reproduced in writing, but the processing of the data contained in it, including retrieval, is time-consuming, i.e. such a document is not machine-readable.
  3. Does the document have to be signed? And by whom?
    The OHSA does not require signature verification, but the internal organisation of work of an enterprise or institution may require it. A document must be uploaded that is actually valid at the employer and meets both the requirements of the OHSA and the internal organisation of work of the enterprise.
  4. We are an international enterprise, can a risk assessment be submitted in English, for example?
    No, the risk assessment of the working environment must be submitted to the Labour Inspectorate in Estonian. Pursuant to subsection 10 (1) of the Language Act, the language of public administration in state agencies and local government authorities is Estonian. Pursuant to subsection 12 (1) of the same Act, if an application, request or other document submitted to a state agency or local government authority is in a foreign language, the agency has the right to require the person who submits the document to submit the translation of the document into Estonian. It must be noted that in order to ensure that the instructions, including the risk assessment, are understandable to employees, it may be necessary to translate the instructions and risk assessment into a language they understand or to compile them in another language. Written translation should be preferred to interpretation because, in the case of interpretation, a dispute may arise whether all the information was translated or not. It is not necessary to submit a risk assessment translated into another language or prepared in another language to the self-service environment of the Labour Inspectorate; however, pursuant to section 134 of the OHSA, the employer is required to submit the Estonian version of that risk assessment to the Labour Inspectorate.

What is risk assessment?

The purpose of a risk assessment is to identify and assess all hazards in the working environment.

It is recommended that the risk assessment be performed in the following steps:

  • gathering information about the working environment, work process and employees;
  • identification of hazards in the working environment;
  • assessment of risks related to the hazards – the severity and probability of the possible consequence is assessed and a decision is made regarding whether the risk is acceptable or not;
  • planning of activities to eliminate or reduce risks;
  • documentation of the risk assessment.

The resulting document is called a risk assessment of the working environment.

The employer shall also update the risk assessment of the working environment if:

  • working conditions or the working environment have changed significantly;
  • work equipment or technology have been changed or been upgraded;
  • new data on the effects of the risk hazard on human health have emerged.
  • the level of risk has changed from the initial level due to an accident or unsafe situation;
  • the occupational health doctor has identified that the employee has developed an occupational disease.

The risk assessment must also be updated if the labour inspector has established in the course of supervision that the risk analysis does not adequately assess the risks present in the working environment, among other things that the parameters of the risk factors have not been measured or no measures have been taken to mitigate the risks.

The risk assessment can be performed by the employer or by his or her representative (e.g. a working environment specialist), but it can also be outsourced from a respective service provider.

The advantage of assessing the risks within the company mainly lies in teamwork: after all, there is no single person who knows all the work processes and is able to assess them with respect to hazards. However, outsourcing the service ensures that the assessment is performed by a specialist who is familiar with the methodology of assessing and documenting risks. Also, a specialist as a bystander may find or be able to analyse sources of danger that may not be visible at first glance.

Some factors are known only to the employee performing the specific task who habitually follows the safety requirements or ignores the hazard altogether. It is possible that he or she is not even aware of the hazard. Some hazards are related to a certain technology or device, where unique situations may arise at different stages of work and a stranger can only examine a few of them during a short visit.

The best option is to assess risks in cooperation between the service provider and the employer / the enterprise’s representative. This way, two experts work together: an employer who is familiar with the work performed in their enterprise and its specifics and a service provider who knows the risk assessment methodology and is able to objectively assess the risks. In the best model of risk assessment, employees can also present their opinion of the hazards and preventive measures

Risk assessment and management

Risk assessment is an activity by which an employer identifies and assesses the risk factors in the working environment that may harm employees. For example, insufficient lighting, working with a constraining posture, exposure to chemicals or constant noise.

It is important to identify health hazards before they harm employees and to think about solutions. The practical part of a risk assessment is comprised of proposals to neutralise each hazard.

Assessing and mitigating risks positively affect the employees’ health as well as their ability to work and the company’s productivity. If, for example, one or several factors are disturbing an employee (noise, draught of wind, lack of resting room, etc.) or there are problems with the organisation of work (work equipment is not in working order, extra tasks, etc.), his or her work efficiency is also not the highest. However, when an employee sees and feels that he or she is cared for, it usually helps to increase the employee’s motivation and thus improves the company’s results.

A risk assessment is carried out by the employer’s representatives, or a respective service provider or it is conducted in cooperation with the company’s representatives and the outside service provider. There is no common methodology for the risk assessment of the working environment. Legislation only provides the basic requirements and every enterprise can find the most suitable solutions. According to legislation, the five basic requirements are:

  • identification of hazards in the working environment;
  • measurement of the hazard parameters, if applicable.
  • assessment of the risks with regard to the health and safety of employees, taking into account the previous clause.
  • Preparation and storage of the risk assessment in a format which can be reproduced in writing.
  • Preparation of a written action plan on the basis of the risk assessment designating the measures applied in all fields of activity and at all management levels of the enterprise to prevent or reduce employees’ health risks, and a schedule for applying such measures and executors thereof and allocation of resources required for it.

Carrying out a risk assessment is a continuous process and the risk assessment shall be maintained consistently in accordance with the actual working environment. Once preventive measures have been taken, their adequacy shall be assessed in the light of changes in staff and technology and the depreciation of equipment and buildings.

Risk assessment action plan

  • Put together a working group for the risk assessment and/or outsource the service.
  • Examine the working environment and identification of hazards. Surveys, interviews and questionnaires could be used for this purpose. Assess hazards and risks taking into account the health and age of employees. Identify the groups at risk and the manner in which they are at risk. Measurement of the hazard parameters, if applicable.
  • Establish a realistic action plan to address shortcomings, together with priority actions, responsible persons and a schedule. Prepare the risk assessment and make it available to the employees, management and, if necessary, also to the labour inspector, and inform the employees about the outcomes.
  • Monitor the implementation of the action plan .

Assessment of the size of the risk

Both in Estonia and the rest of Europe, the matrix recommended by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, according to which the level of risk is determined based on the probability of the occurrence of a risk factor and the severity of the consequences, has been frequently used because of its simplicity. Both the probability of occurrence and the severity of the consequences are divided into three levels.

The probability of occurrence is considered very unlikely if the risk factor is not present at all in an employee’s work. The occurrence of a risk factor is considered probable if the risk factor may occur only a few times during the entire working time of an employee and very probable if the risk factor may occur repeatedly during the entire working time of an employee.

The consequence is considered to be of low risk if the risk factor could lead to accidents or diseases that do not cause long-term damage (e.g. minor wounds, eye irritation, headache, etc.) Accidents and diseases that cause mild but long-term or regularly recurring damage (e.g. wounds, mild fractures, burns on a limited part of the body, skin allergies, etc.) are classified as dangerous.

Accidents and diseases caused by a hazard in the working environment that cause severe and permanent injury and/or death (e.g. amputation, severe fractures, burns that cover a large part of the body, etc.) are classified as particularly dangerous.

According to the matrix, the risks are divided into four levels. Level 1 indicates low risk which generally does not require action.

Risk assessment matrix




Low risk

(no health disorders)

High risk

(mild health disorders)

Particularly dangerous

(serious health disorder)

Highly unlikely

Low risk


Tolerable risk


Medium risk


Relatively unlikely, but possible

Tolerable risk


Medium risk


High risk



Medium risk


High risk


Intolerable risk


Depending on the magnitude of the risk to health and the importance and extent of the actions to be taken, the risk levels in the table can be explained as follows:

Low risk (I) risk to health is unlikely and the consequences of possible damage to health are of low risk; no special actions required.

Tolerable risk (II) risk to health means either the relatively unlikely probability of low-risk damage to health or the relatively unlikely probability of dangerous damage to health. Tolerable risk does not generally require additional actions to be taken, but these risks also require constant knowledge and compliance with safety measures and general maintenance of the workplace, and shall be taken into account when preparing the enterprise’s occupational health and safety action plan.

Medium risk (III) the probability of damage to health can range from very unlikely to probable and the severity of the damage is particularly dangerous to low-risk, respectively. In this situation, appropriate measures should be taken shortly (within 35 months) after the risk assessment.

High risk (IV) the probability of damage to health is either relatively probable or probable, while the severity of damage to health is either particularly dangerous or dangerous.

Such hazards require prompt action (preferably within 13 months of the risk assessment).

Intolerable risk (V) the risk to health is high in terms of both probability and severity of damage to health. Work shall not be resumed or commenced until the risk level has been reduced. If the necessary mitigation measures cannot be taken due to lack of resources, work in the danger zone is prohibited.

A separate criterion that should be taken into account is the number of employees exposed to a specific risk factor. The factors that simultaneously endanger the health of many employees should be taken more seriously. It is also important for prioritising the steps taken to improve the working environment.

At any level of risk, especially at levels 3 and above, employees shall be given instructions in such a way that they are aware of how these risks endanger their health and what safe work practices and means are available to reduce the risk while working.

Pursuant to legislation, employees shall receive information on the results of risk assessments of the working environment. In practice, risk assessments tend to be rather “classified” documents that stay in the employer’s desk drawer and are only found if they need to be presented to the labour inspector. Ideally, the entire document, or at least an adequate summary thereof, should be available for employees to read, and the results of the risk assessment should be reflected in both the safety instructions and the enterprise’s action plan for risk mitigation.

Who conducts the risk assessment?

A risk assessment may be conducted by the employer or his or her representative, but this service may also be outsourced from a relevant service provider.

Both options have their advantages, but also disadvantages. When conducting the risk analysis yourself, you may be so used to the working environment that you may not be able to properly notice all the hazards. This results in a meaningless document that no one can learn from. It is also common to underestimate the hazards that one is constantly exposed to and 'used to', meaning that the risk to an employee’s health is not eliminated, as according to the assessment, there is no need to think about risk reduction measures.

At the same time, there is no need to be afraid of overestimating risks – even the slightest action to reduce any risk can be beneficial, for example because it improves the employees’ attitude towards work and, ultimately, productivity through a healthier working environment.

When risks are assessed within the company, the benefits mainly lie in teamwork. There is no way of doing it alone: is there even a person universal enough who knows all the work processes and is able to analyse them with regard to hazards?

When outsourcing the risk assessment service, the service provider may not be able to analyse hazards that are not immediately visible. Some factors are known only to the employee performing a particular task, who either habitually follows safety requirements or ignores the hazard. However, it is also possible that the employee is not aware of the hazard. Some hazards are related to a certain technology or device, where different situations may arise at each stage of work and a stranger can only examine a few of them during a short visit. Naturally, a service provider who takes his or her work seriously will thoroughly examine the peculiarities of the work performed. However, occasionally it is limited to what is visible at that moment and sometimes a document entitled “Risk Assessment” is prepared on the basis of an employer’s statements without actually visiting the working environment. The latter is quite meaningless.

The advantage of outsourcing the risk assessment service would be the peace of mind that the analysis is conducted by a specialist who is familiar with the methodology of risk assessment and documentation and the employer saves the time that would otherwise be spent on the assessment.

However, the option of assessing the risks in cooperation between the service provider and employer / representative of the enterprise should also be considered. In that way, two experts essentially work together – the employer who knows the work of his or her company and its peculiarities and the service provider who is familiar with the risk assessment methodology and may thus be able to give a more objective assessment without underestimating the risks. The best model for risk assessment also involves the employees who have a say in both the hazards they perceive and the effectiveness or shortcomings of the preventive measures.

How to conduct a risk assessment?

The first step is to identify all the hazards, no matter how insignificant. Some hazards may be prevalent in the entire enterprise, while some may only be present in a certain part of the work. Therefore, it makes sense to assess the hazards separately in each place of work.

In order to ensure an objective overview of hazards in the workplace, one should start by describing the working conditions. The descriptions shall be sufficiently detailed so that even a person who has never seen these places of work has a clear enough picture of their conditions. Thus, for example, the statement that the working environment is a regular locksmith’s workshop cannot be regarded as a sufficient description. The location and size or rooms, layout of places of work, lighting and indoor climate conditions, tools and other equipment, tasks, general organisation of work, as well as resting and washing conditions shall be described. An inspection report helps to facilitate the inspection, providing the list and assessment scales of risk factors so that they are not forgotten.

Taking pictures of jobs and activities helps to visualise the working conditions. Digital photos make it quite easy to document and explain the images, so it is reasonable to use them to describe the working environment.

Quite a lot of information can be received from interviewing employees with the aim of getting an overview of the employees’ opinions of the working conditions and perceived problems. Although in many cases employees are so used to the working conditions in their place of work that they do not perceive hazards to be likely, a well-prepared questionnaire helps to correctly assess several situations. In addition, a questionnaire like this may make the employee rethink the problems related to his or her work which in turn may be a good opportunity to raise the awareness of employees on the working environment and risk mitigation measures.

General principles of risk reduction

Once the work-related risks have been assessed, the natural next step is to draw up an action plan to eliminate the major problems. The action plan is a reminder, especially for the company’s managers, to carry out the plans in a timely manner. Naturally, not all factors can be eliminated from a working environment at once. To do that, work should be stopped and the enterprise closed down. However, the following principles should be taken into account when planning activities:

  • Avoid temporary solutions. They are usually insufficient, but tend become more permanent than originally planned. In principle, the use of personal protective equipment is also considered a temporary solution; there are actually very few jobs where the working conditions cannot be made 100% safe by the use of technology without the need for personal protective equipment.
  • Prefer solutions that benefit more employees. For example, instead of providing a desk lamp for one employee’s place of work, it would be useful to improve the lighting of the entire room.
  • Factors causing more serious health disorders should be prioritised. For example, if the moving parts of a mechanism do not have a protective cover and the lighting conditions in that place of work are also poor, start by installing a protective cover on the device. The lighting should also be improved eventually.
  • The action plan shall inevitably take into account realistic possibilities. Therefore, plan to carry out the more costly activities at a time when it is realistic to find the resources. The essentials shall be done first. However, the lack of resources cannot be an excuse or justification for unhealthy working conditions. The work shall be performed in such a manner that the person doing it remains in full health.

Measurement of hazards in the working environment

The level of damage to health is known for many factors. Some factors occur only occasionally in the working environment, therefore measuring a factor only one time often does not provide sufficient information. The best solution would be to monitor the factors (continuous measurement over a period of time). The latter may be complex, but feasible for many factors and not always excessively expensive.

Sometimes it may happen that the effect of a risk factor is realised only when the worker's body has received a certain amount of “factor” or dose from exposure to that risk factor over a period of time. In this case, it is more reasonable to measure the dose that the worker received. The most common method is radiation dosimeters used for employees exposed to ionising radiation, which change colour according to the total amount of radiation, i.e. the dose of radiation received. Similarly, it is possible to determine the dose of several chemicals (chemicals that are excreted very slowly from the body and can accumulate and therefore produce an effect). It is also possible to measure the “dose” of noise an employee is exposed to. Measuring the dose is beneficial because a single measurement of noise in one part of the room may not include all the places (rooms) where work is performed or all the stages of work. As a result, there may be a risk that some events and associated factors are not properly assessed. It is also possible that some factors occurred by chance only during the measurement period, so they may be overestimated.

Measurements are generally objective, but only if the methodology used for the measurement is laid out in detail and strictly followed. For measurements, it shall be kept in mind that the traceability of the measurement results of certain hazards shall be proven within the meaning of the Metrology Act. This means that repeated measurements using the method described in the measurement report give the same result within the tolerable level of error. Therefore, both measurement (which in turn requires knowledge of the phenomenon and the equipment and methods used to measure it) as well as the recording of results require competence. A practice which is based on the opinion that if measuring equipment is present, anyone can perform any measurements, cannot be considered reasonable. Often, knowing and following the rules of procedure are more important than the quality of the device.

Why have the measurements performed by an accredited laboratory?

The reliability of a measurement is not only guaranteed by a calibrated measuring instrument, but also by a competent measurer who is able to properly interpret the results measured with the measuring instrument and compare them with the norms specified in legislation or standards. The results of the measurements may need to be used later in legal proceedings, for example in the case of an occupational disease, and the court will only consider as evidence the results of measurements carried out by an accredited laboratory.

The list of accredited laboratories is available on the website of the Estonian Accreditation Centre at

With regard to measuring noise, it is important to know that if the measurement result exceeds 80 dB, the measurements shall be performed by an accredited laboratory, i.e. the traceability of the measurement results shall be provable within the meaning of the Metrology Act. Measurements of vibration can only be carried out by an accredited laboratory.

Not only the noise level (decibels) but also the noise frequency is important when measuring noise. The more information there is about the noise level and frequency of noise, the better employees can be protected from noise, because suitable hearing protection can be purchased based on the specific place of work and its peculiarities. When organising noise measurements, one should consider measuring noise not only in those places of work where noise-generating equipment is used but also in places of work that are further away and where the noise may still exceed the maximum limit value.

Legislation does not provide specific periods after which noise should be re-measured. Noise measurement should be repeated if changes in a place of work may increase the noise level. At the same time, it is important to measure noise even if the noise is reduced in an environment where the maximum limit was exceeded. For example, if a new device is purchased that produces less noise compared to the previous device. In this case, measurement is important if the employer needs to prove years later that an employee’s hearing impairment is not caused by his or her enterprise’s working environment.

The level of exposure to electromagnetic fields shall be assessed on the basis of measurements or calculations. The measurements or calculations shall be ordered by an employer from a competent measurer or follow these requirements in the measurement and calculation:

  1. the person performing the measurements or calculations shall have undergone the necessary training;
  2. the methodology of measuring or calculating electromagnetic fields shall follow the relevant standards or international scientific guidelines;
  3. the measuring equipment shall be appropriate and calibrated;
  4. the measurements or calculations shall be documented, presented with the measurement uncertainty, and contain all the information necessary to assess the level of exposure of an employee to electromagnetic fields and the resulting health risk.

If employees are exposed to optical radiation, the employer shall assess and, if necessary, measure or calculate the level of exposure to optical radiation.

The traceability of the measurement results of optical radiation shall be provable within the meaning of the Metrology Act.

If hazardous chemicals are used in a place of work, the employer shall measure the content of chemical substances present in the air of the working environment in the course of the risk assessment. The content of hazardous chemicals in the air of the working environment can be measured by a measurement laboratory accredited by the Estonian Accreditation Centre or a measurement laboratory that has confirmation of professional competence.

Temperature can be measured by the employer using a suitable measuring instrument (thermometer).

If there is any doubt as to whether the lighting meets the requirements, the employer may also carry out lighting measurements. For lighting, the opinion of the employees on the adequacy of lighting shall be taken into account in addition to the measurement result.

When performing measurements, it is important to document the course of the measurements – which measurements were performed, which instrument was used (whether the instrument was calibrated), at which places of work the measurements were performed. In the case of temperature measurements, the outdoor temperature at the time of measurement could be recorded.

Sometimes it is possible to measure factors in the working environment indirectly. The easiest example is chronometry where the number of movements of a certain type in a unit of time is counted, although the aim is to estimate the workload of certain muscles.

Here are some more explanations to help you “measure” whether or not a sitting position (nowadays, mostly work with display screen equipment) can be a problem:

  • The position of the head in relation to the display screen (the object observed) should be relaxed and upright or slightly bent forward. Therefore, the upper edge of the display screen should be at the height of the eyes of an employee who is sitting as comfortably as possible (a half-lying position is not the most comfortable position for the body). In this position, the centre of the sector of the best field of vision coincides with the centre of the screen, which is approximately 15° below the horizontal line at eye level. When the employee is looking at the keyboard and documents on the tabletop, his or her head is slightly lowered, in which case the display screen should be slightly lower than that described above. The display screen should be located directly in front of the employee. Even a few hours of working with being forced to keep one’s head turned to either side is tiring but the pain in the neck muscles develops by the end of the first or second working day.
  • The most comfortable position for the hands is as follows: the upper arm hangs freely and the shoulder and the forearm are at an obtuse or at most right angle. Thus, both the keyboard and mouse should be about 10 cm lower than the elbow of a freely hanging hand. The table, which is also used for handwriting, should be 10–15 cm higher than the elbow of a freely hanging hand, as the hand needs to be lightly supported on the table when writing; thus, if such a desk is used for computer work, it should have a keyboard drawer. In this case, the keyboard and mouse should both fit on the keyboard drawer to always comply with the requirement that the mouse and keyboard should be on the same plane.
  • The chair shall provide a comfortable sitting position, i.e. a) the soles of the feet rest fully on the floor, while b) the thigh and lower leg are at an obtuse angle; c) the backrest provides comfortable support for the back and allows some change of position, i.e. its angle and height can be adjusted. Although the height of the chair could be adjustable, meeting this requirement alone does not satisfy the need for the correct desk height: adjusting the chair to an extremely high or low position which ensures the correct position of the hands in relation to the table does not ensure a comfortable position for the feet.

Risk assessment of psychosocial risk factors

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer shall approach work stress the same way as any other risk factor arising from the working environment, assessing the risk to the employee’s health arising from the psychosocial risk factors present in the working environment through a risk assessment.

The assessment of psychosocial risks can be based on the same five-step risk assessment process which is also used, for example, for the assessment of physical hazards.

  1. Identify potential hazards that the employees of the enterprise are exposed to. To do this, you should first familiarise yourself with various psychosocial risk factors in order to be able to notice what is important in your enterprise. Interviews with employees, satisfaction surveys already conducted, or the results of previous risk assessments may be helpful in identifying potential hazards in the organisation.
  2. Assess which groups of employees are at risk. Various methods can be used, such as assessing existing data on employees’ sick leaves or staff turnover in departments, using questionnaires, conducting individual or focus group interviews, using existing data from personal development evaluations or satisfaction surveys.
  3. Identify the most important risks based on data analysis and then develop possible solutions for risk mitigation. After analysing the data and identifying the most important general hazards, employees should definitely be involved in the development of solutions, as they are the greatest experts in their work. It may be that the wider problem raised in the questionnaire is not sufficiently detailed for the development of the solutions presented or that assistance is needed from employees to effectively implement the risk mitigation measure. It is worth noting that measures aimed at preventing the problem at the organisational level are the most effective, whereas measures dealing with the consequences of work-related stress are the most expensive.
  4. The results of the analysis and the related action plan shall be presented in writing. The action plan shall be sufficiently specific, covering not only the activities but also the responsibilities, the resources allocated and the schedule.
  5. Afterwards, the implementation of the action plan should be monitored and it is useful to repeat the analysis on a regular basis in order to check the effectiveness of the implemented measures and to identify any new problems that have arisen. The risk assessment shall be repeated for example if working conditions change or occupational diseases occur.

In the risk analysis process, it is essential to ensure the confidentiality of the data and the anonymity of the respondents and interviewees – data are collected and analysed only at the group level. This allows employees to express their views and concerns freely and avoids harassment in conflict-prone situations. In a small organisation, where anonymity cannot be ensured, employees shall also be clearly informed of this during the analysis.

The risk assessment tool

One means to compile a risk assessment and action plan is the digital risk assessment tool of the Labour Inspectorate which can be found in the TEIS self-service environment. The tool is intended first and foremost for small and medium-sized enterprises and can conveniently be used to assess risks in the working environment, as well as plan and manage activities. Read more here. The tool is only available in Estonian.

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