Guide: The health and safety risk assessment process

A tool for managers and the health and safety group: How to prepare a health and safety risk assessment (APV) at your shop. Read about requirements for the risk assessment, roles and responsibilities, the five phases of the process, suggested methods, etc.

Risk assessment: The most important tool in health and safety work

The health and safety risk assessment (APV) is an important tool in connection with working environment efforts, and the health and safety group is to take part in the assessment process. Risk assessment covers both physical and psychosocial working conditions. These two aspects are often connected and affect each other.

A risk assessment has two objectives. It helps management and health and safety groups:

  • Monitor the working environment in a systematic way, so problems are identified in time.
  • Draw up a plan for how management and employees will resolve the problems identified in the risk assessment.

When to carry out risk assessments

All workplaces with employees must carry out a risk assessment that is to be revised at least every three years. Furthermore, the risk assessment should always be reviewed and updated whenever there are changes to the work, work processes or working methods which may affect the working environment. For example, if you buy new cash registers, or if you reorganise or renovate the shop.

You may also have to adjust the risk assessment if new information or experiences come to light. For example, if there’s an accident at work or if you uncover problems with the physical or psychosocial working conditions.


  • If a grocery shop decides to move its cash registers, a risk assessment can uncover how that may affect the physical or psychosocial working conditions. Will the new location increase the risk of drafts? Will check-out assistants be less protected against a dissatisfied and angry customer? Will it be more difficult to keep an eye on what’s going on in the store?
  • If you have an employee who becomes pregnant, you are to use a risk assessment to review her working environment to ensure that both she and her unborn child are shielded from harmful impacts.
  • If you introduce a new technology, such as a new cash register system or a new surveillance system, you can use the risk assessment to analyse the consequences.

Who draws up the risk assessment?

Management and employees are to draw up the risk assessment together. If you have one, the health and safety group must participate in preparing the risk assessment.

If you do not have a health and safety group, a union representative or selected representative can be included in the work on behalf of the employees.

Before you start

Before you start, the manager and the health and safety group (or a representative of the employees, if you do not have an actual working environment group) must agree on what you want to achieve: Should the risk assessment have a special focus – e.g. stress, conflicts or general well-being? How will you approach it? Who should be involved and why? Which method will you use? Divide the tasks between you and make a schedule.

Remember to inform everyone about what you plan to do - for example at a staff meeting, on the intranet or on the notice board.

The five phases of the risk assessment process

Health and safety risk assessment is an ongoing process comprising five phases: Mapping, analysis, examination of absence due to sickness, action plan and follow-up. The five phases are determined by Danish Working Environment Authority (WEA) rules.

Phase 1: Identify and map the working environment

Are there any problems with the working environment, and what is the nature and extent of those issues? Gathering information from employees can take place in different ways. Choose the method that best suits your shop and the objective you have in mind. For example:

  • The dialogue method is an inclusive approach suitable for small and medium-sized shops. Can be carried out at a staff meeting, should take approx. one to two hours. At the meeting, map the things that work well and the things that need to be improved. You can then move directly to the next steps of analysing and identifying solutions in an open dialogue.
  • The questionnaire method is suitable for workplaces with more than 20 employees. Download a questionnaire from this page and send it out via email or as a printout. The health and safety group should then follow-up on the submitted questionnaires. 
  • The checklist method. An interactive tool with associated action plan, which you can adapt yourself, so that you check exactly the topics that are relevant to you. (Opens in new window - in Danish only).

Both methods have benefits and drawbacks: A questionnaire can be helpful for comparison and statistics. A dialogue-based health and safety risk assessment, carried out a meeting for example, may bring more facets to light and can make it easier for people with reading difficulties to weigh in.

Phase 2: Describe ans assess problems in the working environment

Review the responses from the questionnaire or from the dialogue at your staff meeting. What works? What needs to be improved? How serious are the problems? Look for patterns or interconnections that could explain why some people feel stressed. Also consider why others do not feel stressed: Why do they have better psychosocial working conditions?

The analysis should lead to possible solutions. Include as many people as possible in identifying those solutions. If you have used a questionnaire, a manager or the health and safety group can present the results at a staff meeting and, together, you can discuss possible solutions. This will be a natural step of the process if you use the dialogue method.

Phase 3: Examine absence due to sickness

As part of the analysis, consider whether any absence due to sickness is related to or caused by the working environment. How are the sick days distributed? Is the number of sick days rising or falling? Is the number of sick days particularly high/low for certain jobs functions? Is there any indication that absence due to sickness is related to working conditions?

Phase 4: Set priorities and prepare an action plan

Management and the health and safety group/employee representative should then prioritise the topics and solutions to take further and should describe the activities to be launched.

Once you’ve decided on specific initiatives and measures for your future work, make sure to describe these in your health and safety risk assessment action plan (APV action plan), so you don’t forget to follow up.

Having everyone participate in prioritising the identified problems creates a stronger sense of ownership. Perhaps other employees can take responsibility for implementing parts of the action plan.

Phase 5: Implementation and follow up

Who will be responsible for implementing the action plan? When and how will you determine whether the selected solutions have worked? Write down who is responsible for implementing the different solutions and who will be responsible for coordination and follow-up. Follow up on the action plan quarterly, for example.

It’s a good idea to repeat the mapping after 1-2 years to check whether you have achieved the desired improvements.  You can also repeat the mapping earlier if that makes more sense.

Additional requirements for the health and safety risk assessment

  • The health and safety risk assessment must be in writing. However, there are no requirements regarding its length.
  • The health and safety risk assessment must be available in the shop so management, employees and the Danish Working Environment Authority can read it. It can hang on the wall in the cafeteria, it can be placed in a binder in the office or it can be saved on the intranet. Most importantly, management and employees should know where to find it.
  • Management and employees are to work together on the health and safety risk assessment.

Last revised at 12. February 2024