• Patricia Joyce Ani

Hazards vs Risks



“Hazards” and “Risks” are words commonly used and heard in the workplace. While some people think these two mean the same thing, they are actually different.


WHAT IS A HAZARD?

Hazard is any source of potential harm or damage to humans, to property, to the environment or a combination of these. Hazard can be a thing, a condition, or a behavior. Generally, it is anything that can cause harm. Sometimes the effect is referred to as a hazard instead of the actual source of the consequence. For example, the COVID-19 might be called a hazard by some, but in general, the Corona Virus is considered a hazard or hazardous biological agent.


Here are some examples to help you identify hazards:

Examples of Hazards

Harm Caused

Knife

Cut

Wet floor

Slips

Electricity

Shock, electrocution

CoronaVirus

CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Transfer of hydrocarbons with pump

Release of hydrocarbon to the environment

Storing of LPG

Cold burns

Working at height

Falls

WHAT IS A RISK?


Risk is the possibility of something bad happening if exposed to a hazard. It refers to the chance that the person will be harmed or injured, the environment will be affected or the property will be damaged if exposed to the hazard. Risks are expressed in probability or likelihood of developing a consequence like a disease and an injury. To understand further, here are some examples of risks based on the hazards in the previous table.

Examples of Hazards

Risks

Harm Caused

Knife

Knife left uncovered every meal preparation

Cut

Wet floor

Wet floor without signages every morning

Slips

Electricity

Exposed wires during monthly maintenance

Shock, electrocution

CoronaVirus

Exposure to the virus when going to public places

CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Transfer of hydrocarbons with pump

Pump leak during transfer of hydrocarbons once per week

Environmental damage

Storing of LPG

Release of 5 gallons of LPG once a year

Cold burns

​Working at height

Working at a 3-layer scaffold every start-up

Falls

Several factors influence the degree or likelihood of risk. These include the nature of exposure (e.g. every day), how the exposure happens (e.g. skin contact), and the severity of the effect (e.g. skin cancer vs skin irritation).

Oftentimes, hazards and risks are used interchangeably. To make it simpler, look at the illustration below.



The illustration above shows that the wet floor is the agent that can potentially cause harm. The wet floor can not harm anyone if an action will not happen, like an engineer running across the floor. Once an action is done, the word “risk” applies. The presence of a wet floor and the running engineer is now a risk. The risk can be influenced by how fast the engineer is or how wet the floor is.


It is also important to determine the hazard and the potential harm it can cause to eliminate risk. However, the hazard may remain even if the risk is minimized. These can be further understood through Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment and Control which aims to determine hazards, level of risk, and how to control the effect.



References
Government of Western Australia. (n.d.). From What is a hazard and what is risk?: https://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/Safety/What-is-a-hazard-and-what-is-4721.aspx

Hasa. (2017, February 7). Pediaa. From Difference Between Hazard and Risk: https://pediaa.com/difference-between-hazard-and-risk/

Hazards and Risks. (2020, July 10). From Safety, Canadian Centre fo Occupational Health and Safety: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/hazard_risk.html
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