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Evaluating the Hazards

Viimati uuendatud: 15.10.2019

Evaluating the Hazards

Both in Estonia and elsewhere in Europe, the matrix recommended by EU OSHA is often used to determine the hazard level based on the risk factor occurrence probability and the severity of consequences. Both probability and impact are divided into three levels.

The occurrence probability is seen as very improbable if the hazard never occurs during the entire working time of the employee. The probability is seen as possible if the hazard factor can appear only a few times during the working time and probable when the hazard could occur repeatedly during the employee’s working time.

The consequence is seen as marginal if the hazard can cause accidents or illnesses that do not cause long-term damage (like small wounds, eye irritation, headache, etc.). Notable impact includes accidents and illnesses that do cause light, but long-term or irregularly repeating damages (like wounds, small bone fractures, heat wounds on a certain body part, skin allergies, etc.).

Workplace hazards causing severe and persistent damage and/or death (like amputation, big bone fractures, burns on a large part of the body, etc.) are classified as catastrophic.

According to the matrix, risks are divided into levels I-V. Level I indicates a low risk, which generally does not require the application of any measures, but if possible, measures should be applied as there is no 0-risk.

Risk Assessment Matrix





(no health disorders)


(mild health disorder)


(severe health disorder)

Very improbable

Low risk


Acceptable risk


Medium risk


Unlikely, but possible

Acceptable risk


Medium risk


High risk



Medium risk


High risk


Intolerable risk



Depending on the risk severity on health, and the significance and extent of the applied measures, the risk levels presented in the table could be explained as follows.

Low risk (level I) – risk on health is very improbable and the consequences on the probable health damage are modest; special remedies are not required.

Acceptable risk (level II) – risk on health is either a moderate probability of a mild health disorder or a low probability of a moderate health disorder. In general, the acceptable risk never requires the application of additional safety measures, but being aware of and following the safety measures, and the overall upkeep of the workplace (which must also be taken into consideration when compiling the company’s occupational health and safety action plan) are important.

Medium risk (level III) – the risk of getting a health disorder ranges from low to high and the severity of the consequences, correspondingly, from severe to mild. In this situation, required measures must be applied soon (in 3-5 months) after the risk assessment.

High risk (level IV) – the risk of getting a health disorder is either moderate or high, and the severity of the consequences severe or mild. Such risks require the fast application of required measures (preferably, in 1-3 months after the risk assessment).

Intolerable risk (level V) – the risk on health is severe – both in terms of probability and consequences. Works may not be continued nor started before the risk has been alleviated. If there are no resources to apply the required measures, working in the hazard zone is forbidden.

As a special criteria, the number of employees affected by the specific hazard must also be considered. The hazards influencing a greater number of people simultaneously must be taken more seriously. The number of affected employees is an important criteria when prioritizing the steps taken for improving the working environment.

In the case of any hazard, especially for risk levels III and above, the employees must be informed how the hazards influence their health and what are the safe work techniques and means to decrease the hazard while working.

According to legislation, the results of the workplace risk assessment must be disclosed to the employees. In reality, the risk assessment tends to be a rather “classified” document stored in the employer’ drawer and touched only when presented to the labour inspector. Ideally, the entire document or at least an adequate summary should be available for the employees to read and the risk assessment results reflected in the safety instructions and the company’s risk alleviation action plan.  

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