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What is a hazard?

When we refer to hazards in relation to occupational safety and health the most commonly used definition is ‘A Hazard is a potential source of harm or adverse health effect on a person or persons’.

The terms Hazard and Risk are often used interchangeably but this simple example explains the difference between the two.

If there was a spill of water in a room then that water would present a slipping hazard to persons passing through it. If access to that area was prevented by a physical barrier then the hazard would remain though the risk would be minimised.

OK, but what is Risk?

When we refer to risk in relation to occupational safety and health the most commonly used definition is ‘risk is the likelihood that a person may be harmed or suffers adverse health effects if exposed to a hazard.’

It’s as simple as that.

In other words, a hazard may exist but it does not need to present a risk to people or property.

If you would like to know how to do a risk assessment, check out our post.

If you are still confused about the difference between a hazard and a risk, check out our little animation video below. It should help clear up any confusion!

Categorising Risk

The level of risk is often categorised upon the potential harm or adverse health effect that the hazard may cause, the number of times persons are exposed and the number of persons exposed.

For example exposure to airborne asbestos fibres will always be classified as high because a single exposure may cause potentially fatal lung disease.

Whereas the risk associated with using a display screen for a short period could be considered to be very low as the potential harm or adverse health effects are minimal.

What are Control Measures?

Control measures include actions that can be taken to reduce the potential of exposure to the hazard, or the control measure could be to remove the hazard or to reduce the likelihood of the risk of the exposure to that hazard being realised.

A simple control measure would be the secure guarding of moving parts of machinery eliminating the potential for contact.

When we look at control measures we often refer to the hierarchy of control measures.

hierarchy of controls

What is Risk Assessment?

Risk Assessment is where the severity of the Hazard and its potential outcomes are considered in conjunction with other factors including the level of exposure and the numbers of persons exposed and the risk of that hazard being realised.

There are a number of different formulae used to calculate the overall risk from basic calculations using high, medium and low categories to complicated algorithms to calculate risks at Nuclear power stations and other high risk work locations.

It is important to ensure that the residual risk following implementation of control measures is ‘as low as is reasonably possible’ (ALARP).

For a risk to be ALARP it must be possible to demonstrate that the cost involved in reducing the risk further would be grossly disproportionate to the benefit gained. More on Risk Assessment

To improve your knowledge and enhance your understanding of key concepts in Health, Safety & Environment, make sure to check out The Safeti Podcast!

The Safeti Podcast