Difference between Hazard and Risk

Difference between Hazard and Risk
Safeti School

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We have created some podcasts and learning videos to help you with key, basic Health, Safety & Environmental concepts! They aim to give you a basic understanding of core health and safety practices.

In this post, we address the difference between hazard and risk.

When we’re talking about risk of any kind in the workplace, we need to first understand the hazards that exist in our surrounding environment.

In many countries, including the UK, there is a legal obligation in place for employer’s to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

The Health and Safety at Work Act underpins the requirements here in the UK.

The difference between hazard and risk is very often confused. It is important to understand the relationship between the two terms and how they should be applied.

We explain further in our video below.

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In the above video we help explain the difference between hazard and risk.

The two terms can be used to compliment each other however they are often poorly applied when it comes to health and safety.

By understanding the simple relationship between hazard and risk, we can use them effectively in health and safety management.

Firstly, let’s look at the term hazard.

What is a hazard?

Simply, it is something with the potential to cause harm. A hazard can take many forms. It could be a substance, an energy source or an existing work practice or process.

Examples of hazards could such thing as Substances e.g. chemicals, Energy Sources e.g. machinery  with moving parts, Work Practices e.g. working at height from a ladder or moving materials with a forklift truck.

OK then, so if a hazard has the potential to cause harm.

What is a risk?

Risk is the chance of that harm actually being caused. In other words, the probability or chance that someone may suffer injury or illness due to an existing hazard.

It is important to know that when we perform a risk assessment, we need to consider two aspects of risk; the likelihood of the harm occurring and the severity of the harm that could be caused.

Let us look at a simple example…..

A water cooler on the shopfloor has a leak. This has created a puddle on the floor which is now a slip hazard. If we do not do anything to remove or control this hazard, there is a significant risk that someone could slip and injure themselves.

On the other hand, if we had identified the potential for harm put suitable and simple control measures in place, such as barriers. The chances of someone coming to harm would now be low.

So although the hazard still exists, the actual level of risk would be reduced.

Now that you know the difference between hazard and risk, it might be useful to learn about Risk Assessment?

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