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Do you know the difference between a "hazard" and a "risk"?

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

To understand how to manage risk we must first understand the difference between a “hazard” and a “risk”.

So, what is the difference between a “hazard” and a “risk”?

A “hazard” can be identified as anything that has the potential to cause harm.

A “risk” is the potential that a hazard will cause harm.

When it comes to health and wellbeing a “hazard” is the possibility of something causing harm whilst “risk” is the likelihood or probability of something causing harm.

Take for example a simple object such as a ladder, the ladder could be considered a “hazard” and someone climbing the ladder and falling off is a “risk”.

With a ladder there is always the possibility of someone misusing the ladder, but, until they misuse the ladder, the ladder remains a hazard. Therefore, when someone misuses the ladder, the hazard converts to a risk of falling or injury.

Another example is a venomous snake. The snake is a hazard, getting bitten by the snake is a risk.

Now that we have an understanding of the difference between a hazard and a risk how then do we determine the specific risk that a hazard poses?

First, we assess how likely it is that someone will be exposed to a hazard.

The likelihood will then depend upon the probability and frequency of exposure to the hazard. We also assess the most likely outcome. The outcome is the severity or the range of the potential consequences resulting from the hazard.

Remember our aforementioned venomous snake? Now imagine that the snake (the hazard) was contained in a secure glass snake enclosure. If we were to rate the hazard (Snake) against the severity and probability scale we would most likely say that the risk to a person in the room is minor or remote.

Change the circumstances and take the snake out of its enclosure and we change the rating to probable and severe.

This is how we must assess hazards and risks within our workplace. The same hazard in two workplaces can have vastly different outcomes based on how we manage and control the risk/s associated with that hazard.

There are tools that employers must have in place to manage risk and control hazards such as hazard identification forms and educting employees on how to implement the hierarchy of controls.

Other tools that employers must implement are risk assessments and JSEA’s. These are vital in mitigating risk and protecting your workforce.

“Safety isn't expensive, it's Priceless." - Anon

If you have concerns about safety in your workforce or would like training in how to understand the hierarchy of control we are available to answer any questions via to your blog post. Use this space to connect with your readers and potential customers in a way that’s current and interesting. Think of it as an ongoing conversation where you can share updates about business, trends, news, and more.

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