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What is the Difference Between Hazards and Risks?

The words hazard means the possibility of something causing harm, and risk means the probability and likelihood of harm occurring. Both terms are used to describe dangers in the workplace.

Often, these two words are used interchangeably. While you might have thought they mean the same thing, they actually have very different meanings.

In England, carrying out suitable and sufficient risk assessments is very important and must be documented. And it is a legal requirement for any employer who employs five or more people.

The statistics of workplace accidents and dangers are shocking. The Health and Safety Executive reports that-

  • 1.6 million working people are suffering from a work-related illness or injury.
  •  One hundred eleven workers killed at work.
  • It is estimated that £16.2 billion costs due to injuries and ill-health from current working conditions (2018/19.)

This guide will help you fully understand – what hazard and risk is, what’s the difference between hazard and risk and how to assess the risk in your workplace.

You can take a course with One Education for more comprehensive and detailed knowledge about workplace safety and hazards and risks assessment.

Table of Contents

What is a hazard?

By putting it simply, a hazard is something that does not cause directly cause or harm but has the potential to cause harm or loss.

Hazards generally increase the effect of danger but have the capability to create an accident. It works as an agent that poses a threat to people, property, the environment, etc.

A hazard can take many forms. It can be a substance, an energy source or existing work practice or process.

Type of Hazards

There are three types of hazards, which are discussed below:

1. Physical Hazard

The physical hazard is those hazards associated with the physical condition and increases the chances of loss.

2. Moral Hazard

These types of hazards are related to human characteristics that are likely to affect the outcome. These can be disloyalty or biases of a person’s; that increases the probability of loss.

3. Morale Hazard

It indicates an insured person’s attitude towards his/her belongings. Morale Hazard is the carelessness of a person, which occur due to the presence of insurance.

What is a risk?

Risk is the probability of harms that hazards could cause if not checked. In other words, it is the possibility of a person being injured or receiving an adverse health effect due to the hazards.

It is essential to know when we need to perform a risk assessment. There are two aspects of risks: the probability of harm occurring and the severity of the damage. Therefore, we can say that the risk is the result of the probability of an event and its severity.

Type of Risks

The risk is the chances of quantifiable loss, damage, injury, liability or any other negative outcome resulting from internal or external hazards. Through some preventable action, you can minimise risk. To minimise the risk, you need to know the types of risks and what event can cause them. The following are the various types of risk:

1. Dynamic Risk

It is also known as a speculative risk.  Both profit or loss is probable if you take a dynamic risk.

2. Static Risk

It is called pure risk or static risk. In this situation, the possibility of profit is nil; the only scenario is a loss or no loss.

3. Fundamental Risk

It affects a large group of people or country or the economy as a whole, such as natural disaster or inflation.

4. Particular Risk

This is the type of risk that adversely affects individuals, not the whole economy or a large group of people, for example, an accident, theft.

5. Subjective Risk

This risk refers to the risk that depends on a person’s mental state at a particular time.

6. Objective Risk

It is the relative difference of actual loss from the anticipated loss.

7. Financial Risk

The risks result can be measured in monetary terms or value.

8. Non-financial Risk

Measurement can not possible in monetary terms is or value.

The key differences between risk and hazard

The following points are essential where the difference between risk and hazard is concerned:
Hazard Risk
Hazard implies an agent that is a root to harm, danger or loss. Risk is described as a situation of harm or danger that might occur when exposed to a hazard.
Hazard denotes the anticipated cause of harm. Risk indicates anticipation of harm.
Hazards are related to physical objects, situations or settings that threaten life, property or anything else. Risk is nothing more than the possibility that an action or inaction can endanger life, property or anything else.
You can not, and it is not possible to measure hazard in degrees. You can easily measure the risk of something in degrees, high or low.

What is a hazard in the workplace?

Workplace hazards are hazards that can cause harm, damage or adverse health effects to the worker. Depending on your workplace, workplace hazards could include:

1. Biological

Biological hazards or biohazard is a biological substance include viruses, bacteria, insects, animals, etc., that can cause harm. The example of biohazards is dust, mould, blood and body fluids, airborne pathogen.

2. Chemical

The nature of a chemical hazard depends on the chemical properties used and stored in the workplace. Chemical hazards can cause both health and physical problems for the employee. For example, it can cause skin irritation, carcinogenicity, flammability and radiation.

3. Ergonomic

This type of hazards is a result of physical factors that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries. These hazards originated from poor posture, manual handling and workstation setup.

4. Physical

Physical hazards result from workplace environmental factors, and these factors are heights, vibration, radiation and pressure of the workplace.

5. Psychosocial

Psychosocial hazards can harm an individual’s mental health or wellbeing.  This type of hazards includes stress, bullying and violence in the workplace.

6. Safety

Hazards that creates unsafe working conditions are safety hazards. For instance, caught in or struck by moving machinery/objects or melting ice could cause a spill hazard.

What is a risk in the workplace?

A workplace risk is the possibility of a person being injured or receiving an adverse health effect due to a hazard while working on the premises. 

There are a few factors an employer needs to keep in mind when considering the amount of risk that a hazard poses to his/her employees or himself/herself. Below are the factors that can influence risk:

  • The frequency of exposure. Are your employees exposed to the hazard for one day in a month or year?
  • The exposure route. How are your workers exposed to the hazards? Is it through skin contact or through breathing in vapours?
  • How severe or harmful the injury or adverse health effect of exposure is? Is the hazards can cause health effects, such as lung irritation or lung cancer?

If you are an employer or CEO, it’s your responsibility to determine the hazards, measure the risks and install necessary controls to protect your employees.

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How to carry out a risk assessment?

Before you start the risk assessment for your company, you should gather all the information you need to follow. For instance, collect necessary resource, laws and regulations to follow, what personnel are involved. You can complete the risk assessment in five steps. These are-

1. Identifying the hazards

2. Identifying who might be harmed and how

3. Evaluating risk and taking suitable precautions

4. Record your findings

5. Reviewing your assessment and update it if necessary.

Step 1: Identify potential hazards in the workplace

The first thing you need to do is identify any potential hazards within a workplace that may cause harm to your employees or business. Take the following simple steps to identify workplace hazards:

  • Take an observation. Walk around your workplace and look for what activities, tasks, agent, elements, substances could harm the workforce.
  • Group the potential hazards into five categories.  You can group them in biological, chemical, ergonomic, physical and psychological. 
  • Look for the previous accidents and ill-health records. It will help you identify the obvious and less obvious hazards.
  • Check product manufacturers’ data sheets, instructions, information and guidance for identifying hazards.
  • Consult with employees (and others) who are performing activities, tasks or processes.

Step 2: Identifying who might be harmed and how

The next step is to identify who might be harmed and how they will be affected by those potential hazards. 

The way hazard might harm or pose a danger through direct contact or indirect contact. You can list them by name or identify them in groups, including:

  • Employees
  • Contractors

Step 3: Evaluating risk and taking necessary precautions

Now, you need to find the probability and how severe the result will be if a hazard occurs in the workplace. After evaluating the hazards, you can take the necessary controls to reduce this level of risk. By considering all relevant factors, you can ensure the health and safety of the workforce. These factors are:

  • The probability that harm may occur
  • How severe can the harm be if that may occur?
  • Have the necessary knowledge about eliminating, reducing or controlling hazards and risks.
  • Have the availability of control measures designed to remove, mitigate or effectively control or the risk.
  • Have enough fund or resource to take the necessary steps.

This risk assessment evaluation will help you determine the risk level. Also, help you identify where you should reduce the risk level and which hazards you should prioritise first.

Step 4: Record your findings

In England, if you have more than five employees in your office, you are legally obligated to write down your risk assessment process. The easy way to keep track of the risks and control is to record your findings on a risk assessment form.

Your risk assessment plan should include, what’s the hazards you’ve found, the people they affect, and how you plan to mitigate them. The record should show that you have:

  • Performed a proper check of your workspace.
  • Assessed the probability of anyone would be affected.
  • Controlled and dealt with them if hazards were present.
  • Initiated the necessary steps to keep risks low.
  • Consulted with the staff and kept them involved with the process.

Step 5: Reviewing your assessment and update it if necessary

As an employer, you should review the assessment periodically and update it if necessary. Because the workplace is always changing, so the risk to your premise’s changes also.

An excellent way to find out when you may need to review your processes are:

  • After any major change within the workplace or process in question.
  • After an accident or ill-health incident has occurred in the workplace.
  • After an employee reported a near-miss incident.

The only way to stay on top of these new hazards and workplace danger is to review and update your risk assessment process continuously.

How to eliminate and reduce risks

It is impossible, and you are not expected to eliminate all the risks in your workplace. But, you must have to ensure that you are doing everything reasonably practicable to protect your employee from harm in the workplace.

There is some preventative measure you can take to control workplace risks. For instance, you could:

  • Use a less hazardous process or changing the hazardous chemical in the workplace.
  • Prevent workers from accessing or doing hazardous activity, process or substance.
  • When necessary, provide employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Using PPE should be the last resort when all other controls have been failed.
  • Make sure you have more than enough first-aid and washing facilities available on the premises.
  • Often communicate with your employee. Listen and consider their opinions and advice on control measures.

These are the common measures to prevent and eliminate risk in the workplace. However, this may changes because every workplace safety requirement and risk assessment are different.

Health and Safety at Work & Risk Control
This is the best way for you to gain deep insight and knowledge of this topic.
Health and Safety at Work & Risk Control
This is the best way for you to gain deep insight and knowledge of this topic.

Closing notes

A risk assessment is very important, and every employer should have a plan for risk assessment. In England, any establishment with five or more employee should have a risk assessment plan, and it must be documented.

A risk assessment process helps an employer identify health and safety hazards and evaluate workplace risks. Most importantly, it saves a company or employer from a considerable fine and lawsuit.

So, why take a risk and be fined for it. Prepare a risk assessment for your workplace. You can take help from One Education by enrolling in Health and Safety at Work & Risk Control.

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September 7, 2021

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