Hazards vs. Risk - How to Differentiate?

Hazards vs. Risk

  • What are they?
  • How to distinguish them?
  • What do we do with them?
  • What is variable and what is constant?

The eternal question: can we eliminate hazards and how can we reduce risks?

Are both statements correct, or only one, or perhaps none of them? Can all hazards actually be eliminated from the workplace or technological process? To what extent do we reduce the risk?

Hazard Identification

There is a basic categorization of hazards into groups. And each group of hazards defines its subgroups. How to identify these hazards and whether you know each group/subgroup of hazards?

There is only one thing certain - that the hazard identification process is influenced by many factors such as:

  • Employee competence/experience,
  • Employee psycho-physical condition.
  • Work or technological process complexity,
  • Time of day, lighting, and much more.

These factors are adjusted for each hazard group. Let's think about what factors we need to consider when identifying hazards for forklift work? I won't mention strategic risks/opportunities, including those with low likelihood, such as a pandemic.

If we are conducting a risk assessment before implementing a new device or machine in production or construction, who in such a case would identify more hazards? Would it be the operator, mechanic, foreman, HSE coordinator, manager, producer, or even an intern?

  • What influences such an important stage of risk assessment as hazard identification?

In the next articles and during the training, we will talk about tools that help us in identifying and categorizing hazards. These will be methods such as PEME, ABBI, and 4Z.

Risk Estimation

International standards and best global practices emphasize that we must be very cautious when assessing the probability and consequences of risk. This is because we often tend to consider only one or two factors.

An example could be manual handling tasks. It's not enough to consider just the weight of the load and the gender of the worker. In such a case, simplification of the process occurs, and ultimately, the risk may be poorly assessed. The worker may have chronic health conditions, and the load may have non-standard dimensions.

Other factors should also be taken into account to ensure they are not overlooked, and there are many of them, such as:

  • The distance we need to travel with the load.
  • Centre of gravity,
  • Employee psycho-physical condition,
  • Floor surface,
  • Indoor/outdoor work,
  • Packaging (glass, foil, slippery), etc.

In summary, risk assessment is not a one-way process and not as simple as it may seem, as it requires a more in-depth analysis and the opinion of a multidisciplinary group of people with different levels of knowledge from various fields.

At the upcoming training, we will learn various methods that will help us estimate the risk for special tasks, such as manual handling, for which we use a risk assessment known as the MAC Tool.

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