Risk assessment using the questionnaire method

A tool for managers and the health and safety group: Questionnaire surveys are ideal for carrying out a health and safety risk assessment (APV) at a workplace with 20 employees or more. Smaller workplaces can use the dialogue method to map working conditions.

How to use this guide

The guide describes how, as a manager or a member of the health and safety organisation, you can conduct a health and safety risk assessment (APV) process using a written questionnaire. Use the questionnaire to map psychosocial working conditions at the shop. After the mapping, carry out the other steps of the health and safety risk assessment (APV) process as described below.

Benefits of mapping using a questionnaire

Mapping your working environment using a written questionnaire can make it easier for employees to give more honest answers than at a staff meeting with everybody listening.

In some situations, it’s a good idea to give allow employees to respond anonymously, so that they feel free to point out any working environment issues. However, in other situations, management should know who responses come from, so that solutions to any working environment issues can be aimed at the right place.

Preparation: Who will be responsible for what?

Before you begin, agree on who will be responsible for what during the process.  A health and safety group or committee would be the natural facilitator of the process. If you do not have a health and safety group, you should still conduct the health and safety risk assessment (APV) process through collaboration between managers and employees. Employees can be represented by an employee representative or by another representative elected by the employees.

Phase 1: The questionnaire survey

Find the questionnaire you want to use

A questionnaire can be designed in many different ways, but it’s crucial that the questionnaire includes the subjects you would like to know more about. For example, you may have indications of conflict between employees, or that some employees find the tone of communication or the workplace banter difficult. In this case, it’s important that you ask about these things.

You can choose a standard questionnaire or you can adapt a questionnaire to suit your needs.

  • An interactice questionnaire from BFA Handel. BFA Handel has developed a health and safety risk assessment (APV) questionnaire specially designed for shops. It has its own website, and in principle it covers all subjects of physical and psychosocial working conditions. You simply unselect the subjects you will not address, and you can also add your own questions. Once you are satisfied, download the questionnaire to your own computer and print it out for the employees. (Opens in new window – in Danish only).
  • A detailed quistionnnaire. The National Research Centre for the Working Environment has developed a detailed questionnaire that you can use for a thorough survey of psychosocial working conditions. The questionnaire builds on solid research and contains 87 questions, broken down into five themes: Content and organisation of work; demands at work; management; collaboration and changes in the workplace; conflict in the workplace; and wellbeing at work. (Opens in new window – in Danish only).
  • Make your own questionnaire. You can also make your own questionnaire from scratch. Find inspiration in the two questionnaires from BFA Handel and the National Research Centre for the Working Environment. If you work for a chain, perhaps you already have a questionnaire at your disposal to download centrally.

Complete the survey

Once you have chosen and adapted the questionnaire you want to use, the employees can complete it. The best way to do this is by everyone completing the questionnaire simultaneously, e.g. at a staff meeting. It will usually take about 15-20 minutes to complete a thorough questionnaire.

Alternatively, you can hand out the questionnaire to the employees or send it via email with a deadline for responding. In this case, you will need to set up a mailbox or similar for the employees to submit the questionnaire anonymously. You should also appoint a facilitator to remind employees to complete the questionnaire.

Two important points:

  • Consider whether completing and submitting the questionnaire anonymously is a good idea. Or whether it’s appropriate that the employer knows who submitted a specific response.
  • You will need a response rate of at least 60% for the survey to be representative. Moreover, you need to respect that participating in such mapping is always voluntary.

Phase 2: Analysis and discussion

Analysis of results

You should recap as soon as possible after the survey. On the basis of the responses, you should analyse data, causes, connections and patterns concerning wellbeing, or lack hereof, at the workplace. You should make sure that both management and employee representatives participate.

A response rate below 60% doesn’t mean that the survey has been a waste of time. However, the further work to find the right solutions and create good psychosocial working conditions will be more uncertain.

Results from a questionnaire survey often constitute a lot of data that is difficult to assess. You can use Excel to gain an overview. This will allow you to divide all responses into categories and make graphic presentations to help make the results clearer.

If you have chosen an anonymous questionnaire survey, the results should be calculated for groups large enough to ensure that no individuals can be recognised. When calculating the average in an anonymous response for groups of less than five people, ask for consent.

Present the results and discuss what they mean

Once you have completed your analysis, you should inform all participants about the results at a meeting, on the intranet or on a noticeboard.

You can hold a staff meeting, at which you consider the results together and discuss psychosocial working conditions in more detail. This can also can be done by individual departments/teams. This will allow you to fully explore the conditions and it will help you focus on solutions. Through dialogue, you can reach a common understanding of any problems.

Be aware of themes such as bullying and harassment, as these can be difficult to discuss at a joint meeting.

Phase 3: Solutions, action plan and follow-up

Finalise the proposals

After the analysis and the joint discussion, management and any health and safety organisation should go through the requests and solutions presented to make a final decision and draw up an action plan for how to get where you want to go. You should consider and describe:

  • The nature, severity and scope of problems, or the desired measures
  • The cause of the problem or the positive/desired measures
  • Solutions/measures.
  • Use the Solutions and measures form.

Visible and invisible problems

Note that there may be a difference between the visible problem – what you see and notice, and the fundamental problem – the source of the problem.

Example: There’s a negative atmosphere in the shop, and the employees communicate with each other in a harsh tone. Conflicts arise, particularly in busy periods. New employees often feel busy and find the tone harsh. The established employees don’t think that the new employees are efficient enough, and feel that they have to do all the work themselves.

The immediate solution could be to increase focus on the tone of communication, but the fundamental problem could be lack of planning and support in busy periods. The example illustrates that you need to explore the matter further to identify the problem and to find the right solution.

Prioritise solutions and proposals

Review your prioritisations from the meeting. Top priority should be given to any breaches of working environment legislation. You should also give priority to issues affecting many people and with the most severe impacts.

Some solutions involve initiating processes or require a more comprehensive approach. For example, measures to mitigate the risk of robbery:

  • Here and now – changing instructions on dealing with robbery, including the procedure/emergency response plan.
  • Process – rehearsing safe cash handling, closing routines and other procedures.
  • Management decisions – physical and technical measures such as surveillance, layout and collection of money using cash transport services.

Phase 4: Draw up your final action plan

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 that you don’t forget to follow up. What initiatives should we launch? Who will be responsible for what? When will the initiatives be launched? How and when do we follow up? And who should be responsible?

Consider your options and think in terms of overall solutions: What can the company/management do, what can the group do, and what can the individual employee do in relation to a specific problem or measure?

  • Company/organisational level (performance of work, framework, stress)
  • Team/interpersonal level (collaboration, social interaction, conflict)
  • The individual/individual level (individual planning, stress management, etc.)
  • Use the Action plan form.

Implement the action plan and follow up

The action plan should state who is responsible for implementing the initiatives you’ve agreed, and when they must have been implemented. Remember to follow up regularly: Is everything proceeding as planned? Are there any unexpected obstacles to be dealt with by the management and perhaps the health and safety group?

Last revised at 08. February 2024