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The difference between a Hazard and a Risk

The difference between a Hazard and a Risk

Hello, in this session I want to dispel a couple of things around the safety area. What I want to do is talk about the difference between a hazard and a risk. What I am seeing at the moment is a lot of organisations struggling with the difference. So we identify a hazard and we think because that hazard is quite large that we need to do something about it which is not entirely true. The hazard in itself is not the risk, in terms of safety, a safety hazard is the hazard times the exposure. So you could actually have a very large hazard with very little to no exposure and it brings the risk level down. Conversely, you could have a relatively small hazard but it has huge exposure to it which will raise the risk level. So in terms of our safety risk management, the first thing that we need to do is identify the hazard, absolutely. Then, we need to think about what is the exposure to that risk. Therefore, what is the likelihood of the harm.

Now, what we also need to understand, that just identifying a hazard isn’t the risk itself. So for example, we might have exposed wiring in a kitchen that is a hazard. The risk is an electric shock to a visitor or a member of staff from exposed wiring in the kitchen. We have actually taken the hazard and put it into an event and once we have identified that risk then we treat it like we would any other risk. What is the likelihood of someone getting that electric shock or getting electrocuted which is dependent on the exposure. So the likelihood is going to be determined by the exposure that you have got and what current controls do you have in place. As we have talked about before, what would be the consequences if somebody did touched the exposed wire, which is probably going to result in an electric shock or in the worst case an electrocution.

So the lesson to come out of this session, is not that you have to go around an identify hazards because we tend to be quite good at identifying hazards. But what I wanted to talk about was not taking the hazard as a risk. We need to turn the hazard, into a risk event, and that way we can manage that risk accordingly. Hopefully that allows you to have a discussion with your safety people to identify that it may be a hazard but the exposure is quite low so why are we trying to eliminate this when there are other things that we could be doing. That’s all I have got for this session, so as always be careful out there.

Written by Rod Farrar