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A risk assessor conducts investigations to determine the level of risk in an environment and to evaluate whether people are taking appropriate measures to mitigate risk. Jobs in this field can involve investigating private homes, the natural environment, workplaces, public transit facilities, and a variety of other locations. Special training may be necessary for certain environments to make sure the risk assessor conducts an adequate study without missing potential hazards.
In some settings, people must hire a risk assessor to proceed with a planned project. Environmental risk assessment, for example, is necessary before breaking new ground, developing property, or clearing property for use after an environmental cleanup. In other cases, this health and safety specialist can inspect an area by request to address any concerns or to help with legal compliance, as when a risk assessor evaluates a workplace to identify and address hazards.
The risk assessor starts by walking through the environment, documenting her observations along the way. This can include collecting samples, taking photographs, making measurements, and asking questions about anything present, from drums of chemicals to wildlife. The risk assessor makes note of any special concerns, and if there is a hazard, the risk assessor will determine whether people are taking adequate measures to control it. For example, drums of discarded oil left in the middle of the lot would be a problem, while tightly sealed containers in good condition on a fenced concrete pad with signage providing information might not be.
Risk assessors look for threats to environmental, human, and animal health. These can include everything from chemicals to improperly shielded machinery. If the assessor finds a poorly contained risk, she will write up a recommendation for fixing the problem. This usually includes a discussion of the legal requirements surrounding a given risk, the basic recommendation, and the best recommendation, allowing people to choose the best option for their settings.
This work requires the ability to travel, spend long hours upright, and traverse a variety of environments. Risk assessors may visit cramped, crowded, noisy, or smelly environments in the course of their work. People with good observational skills and low distractability can be good candidates for this work, as can sticklers for detail. Risk assessor training may be provided on the job by a government agency, or through occupational health and safety courses. Some risk assessors have college degrees in occupational health and safety and may pursue specialty certification allowing them to inspect environments like nuclear power plants or biological research facilities.