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  • Rob Haywood

What is the difference between a hazard, a risk, and a control measure?

What is the difference between a hazard, a risk, and a control measure?


Hazard, risk, and control measures are interrelated concepts that form the cornerstone of adequate health and safety management practices. While these terms are often used interchangeably, each has a distinct meaning and also plays a crucial role in identifying, assessing, and mitigating potential hazards in the workplace.



Safety first keyboard image
Safety first keyboard image


Hazard:

A hazard is any element or condition with the potential to cause injury or harm to people, damage to property, or adverse environmental consequences. Hazards can manifest in various forms, including physical hazards (e.g., sharp objects, hot surfaces, hazardous chemicals), chemical hazards, biological hazards, ergonomic hazards (unsuitable workstation design, repetitive tasks), organizational hazards (inadequate training, unclear work instructions), and psychosocial hazards (high-pressure work environment, lack of communication).


Risk:

On the other hand, risk is the likelihood that a hazard will materialise and cause harm. It combines two factors: the likelihood that the hazard will occur and how severe the potential harm. For instance, a loose cable on the floor presents a higher risk of tripping and falling than a properly secured cable. Similarly, handling a highly toxic substance carries a greater risk of severe health consequences compared to using a less hazardous material.


Control Measure:

A control measure is a proactive strategy or action implemented to reduce or even to eliminate the risk posed by a hazard. Its primary aim is to minimize the likelihood of harm occurring and prevent incidents from taking place. Control measures can be categorized into three primary levels:

  1. Source Control: The most effective approach is eliminating or reducing the hazard at its origin. For example, replacing sharp metal tools with blunt plastic ones eliminates the risk of cuts.

  2. Engineering Controls: Installing physical barriers or engineering solutions can isolate workers from the hazard. This includes incorporating guards on machinery, employing ventilation systems to remove hazardous fumes, or providing automatic shut-off mechanisms for dangerous equipment.

  3. Organizational and Administrative Controls: Establishing procedures, training, and work practices can minimise exposure to hazards. Examples of organisational controls are providing clear instructions, implementing safe work procedures, and conducting regular safety training.

Effective risk management involves continuously identifying hazards, assessing risks, and implementing appropriate control measures. Organisations can significantly reduce the risk of workplace accidents, injuries, and health problems by prioritising hazard elimination and employing a hierarchy of control measures. This comprehensive approach to risk management contributes to creating a safer and healthier work environment for all employees.

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