Risk assessment involves investigating whether there are hazards and then addressing them. Hazards may include factors that pose a risk of injury or illness (ill health), or a risk of fire, environmental emissions or spills or damage to equipment and premises. It is a proactive approach that aims to minimise or eliminate hazards, thereby contributing to a safer workplace.

Why we do it

All operations in Sweden, including those at universities and healthcare regions, must adhere to regulations set forth by various authorities, such as the Swedish Work Environment Authority, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority among others. These regulations mandate proactive and preventive measures to mitigate hazards and prevent accidents through risk assessments. Organizational insurers also mandate such preventive actions.

Risk assessment is obligatory for all types of work, encompassing research and development, healthcare, and teaching. This means any handling of potentially hazardous materials or equipment necessitates a thorough risk assessment.

In settings such as workshops or laboratories, tasks often involve managing hazardous substances (e.g., chemicals, gases, infectious agents) or operating dangerous equipment or machinery. Therefore, conducting a risk assessment prior to commencing any work in these environments is critical.

A further reason for conducting risk assessments is to prevent damage to equipment or premises in case of accidents. Repairs or restorations can be time-consuming or sometimes impossible, leading to significant repercussions for the affected research, education, or healthcare activities. Moreover, the financial compensation available from insurance may have limitations.

In summary:

  • The primary aim of risk assessment is to ensure the safety of all individuals at the workplace, including employees, students, guests, and service personnel.
  • Operational activities should not inflict any harm on the surrounding environment.
  • It is equally critical to safeguard equipment and premises to guarantee uninterrupted research, education, and healthcare operations.


A risk assessment should be done before all potentially hazardous work! Unless it is obvious that there are no hazards at all, risk assessment should be carried out before all hazardous work - which includes most work in laboratories and workshops.

Risk assessments should be initiated during the planning phase, before the purchase or acquisition of materials and equipment. They must be updated whenever there are changes, such as in concentration, temperature, materials, electrical current, room layout, ventilation, etc.

Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly to account for new conditions, such as changes in methods, processes, premises, or legal requirements. With significant changes that impact risks, a new version of the risk assessment must be produced and approved. If changes are minor and do not affect risks, an update is sufficient.

In case of incidents or accidents, a review of the risk assessment is required (a legal requirement).


Risk assessments must always be conducted by individuals with a thorough understanding of the process, working methods, and the workplace.

  • Routine Activities: The person accountable for the analysis or operations is responsible.
  • Research: The individual planning the experiment or project should carry out the risk assessment, in collaboration with a supervisor when involving graduate students or similar participants.
  • Education: The programme manager or director of studies or a course coordinator is responsible for ensuring that hazardous elements are risk assessed (responsibility follows an allocation or delegation of tasks). Specific elements of risk assessments must be executed by teachers or laboratory supervisors who possess the necessary insights and methodological knowledge. It is crucial that students are informed about the risk assessments relating to their education.
  • Approval: A responsible manager must review and sign off (approve) on the risk assessment for laboratories or workshops, in compliance with the Swedish Work Environment Authority's regulations on Chemical Hazards in the Working Environment (AFS 2011:19) and Infectious Risks (AFS 2018:4).

At Linköping University (LiU), the term 'responsible manager' typically refers to a manager assigned specific work environment tasks. Detailed information regarding work environment responsibilities and tasks at LiU is available on the Liunet page concerning responsibilities and roles

How and what

  • Identify and describe the inherent hazards for example the properties or hazards of chemical products or infectious agents but also of the materials or equipment to be used.
  • Identify and describe critical operations (transport, movement, weighing or dilution of the chemical product, heating, cooling, etc). Explain how the equipment or chemical product is used and under which conditions.
  • Review the different work steps to find both inherent hazards and critical work steps in the method, procedure or similar.
  • Assess the likelihood or probability of the hazard occurring and the severity of the potential consequences or effects. Risk is determined by combining both probability and consequence. To aid in assessing these factors, you can utilize the matrices in tools or forms provided by LiU for risk assessment work.
  • When significant risks are identified, they must be addressed - either eliminated or reduced - before work commences. For less severe risks, work can begin alongside the implementation of measures. These measures should be outlined in an action plan, complete with an end date and the designation of a responsible individual.
  • Protective measures may include both technical and personal protective equipment, as well as the selection of methods or equipment. The risk assessment should detail the protective measures required, such as technical protective equipment (workplaces with protective ventilation, strategies to prevent spillages into drains, etc.) or personal protective equipment like protective gloves or goggles. Specific types of protective equipment, if needed, should also be indicated.
  • The risk assessment must be readily accessible at the work site and should be easily available, whether in paper or electronic format, especially during emergencies.
  • All individuals affected by the risk assessment should be informed, including those directly involved with the assessed work and others who may share the premises or equipment. It may also be necessary to inform cleaning staff or property management personnel about specific risks.
  • Risk assessment at LiU can be conducted using various tools, templates, or working methods suitable for different types of hazards and risks. For a summary of these resources, refer to the guidance and links on this page.

Things to include in a risk assessment

  • Emergency Procedures: Outline how accidents or emergencies should be handled, for example, actions to take in case of ventilation loss or power failure. If special measures or preparations are necessary for spill management, detail these within the risk assessment.
  • Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women: Identify any specific risks and required adaptations for pregnant or breastfeeding women. If certain work methods carry no exposure risk to hazardous chemicals and are safe for this group, note this. For further details, refer to the 'Safe Working Environment in Laboratories' section Pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Risk Variability: Account for variations in the risk assessment. It may be prudent to assess risks such as temperature, concentration, and amperage within a range rather than a fixed value to avoid frequent revisions of the risk assessment when procedures are modified.
  • Chemical Hazards: Include both chemical products and chemical hazards in methods or procedures that could cause injuries such as corrosion, allergies/hypersensitivity, or poisoning. Immediate and long-term health impacts should be considered. Hazards could also include frostbite or suffocation risks, e.g., when handling gases or liquid nitrogen. For comprehensive information on chemical hazards, visit the 'Chemical Management' section on risk assessment of chemical hazards.
  • Radiation Hazards: Address risks from ionising radiation sources, lasers, infrared light, or UV light, which can lead to genetic damage or harm to the skin and eyes.
  • Biological Hazards: Note that infectious agents and microbiological hazards can cause hypersensitivity reactions and infections.
  • Inflammable Goods: Improper handling could result in the release of flammable vapours, creating an explosive atmosphere (a mixture of gas or vapour in air which, in contact with a source of ignition, may ignite). Potential consequences are explosions, burns, or even death.
  • Electrical Hazards: Include the risks of overloading electrical equipment or improperly handling electrical components, including rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Potential outcomes may include burns or fire.
  • Mechanical Hazards: Consider risks such as cutting, stabbing, moving parts, and falling objects, with potential consequences like crush injuries and lacerations.
  • Thermal Hazards: Address the dangers of high or low temperatures, which could lead to burns, frostbite, and slips or falls.
  • Noise Hazards: Recognize that excessive noise can cause discomfort, fatigue, and hearing loss.
  • Vibration Hazards: Account for the tissue damage that can arise from using vibrating equipment.
  • Ergonomic Risks: Include the risks associated with incorrect posture, inadequate lighting, heavy lifting, and repetitive movements, which can lead to stress injuries and musculoskeletal disorders.