Hazards vs Danger: Do You Know the Difference?

Posted Aug 9th, 2016 in Tips & News

Hazards vs Danger: Do You Know the Difference?

It is important to understand the difference between hazards and danger. As long as a control measure is in place, danger need not enter into the picture.


by Carola Mittag,
on August 9, 2016 @ 12:00am


A Hazard Brings the Potential of Danger

We live in a hazard rich world, but don’t really give it much thought because safety controls are put in place to protect us.

A safety hazard is an unsafe condition or behaviour that could lead to injury. A safety control is the device in place to protect us from risk of injury.

As long as a control measure is in place, danger need not enter into the picture.

For example:

  • For the hazard of moving parts on equipment, we may use guards as the control measure
  • For the hazard of falling from a high level, we may use a fall arrest system as the control measure

You get the idea. As long as the hazard has been identified and a control is in place to protect us from the identified risk, no danger need exist.

Training employees to recognize hazards in their workplace is one of your best investments in safety.

Hazard Assessments

Safety inspections must be done on a regular basis to identify dangers, which are exposed hazards without controls in place. To ensure you’re recognizing all potential hazards, a layered approach for safety audits is suggested. In this way different people, groups or team members regularly review different areas. It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes will uncover.

Performing regularly scheduled inspections to identify hazards is an important element in any safety management system. Have set intervals when safety inspections are conducted, and record all findings. When a hazard is discovered, an assessment must be performed based on the risk exposure and severity.

Each identified hazard should undergo a risk assessment to assign a level of potential danger. For example, when conducting a safety walk of a work area, and where twelve hazards without proper control measures are identified, a risk assessment would give each hazard a rating and determine which hazards presented the highest potential danger to workers. Typically, these should be addressed first.

Severity - How severe could the injury be from the identified hazard? It could be as small as a pinched finger or, as severe as the death of one or more workers.

Exposure - How often is the worker exposed to the potential hazard? It could be extremely low, e.g. once per month for few seconds, or extremely high, e.g. for an entire shift. An example of this, common in many factories, is exposure to excessive noise.

Job Activity and Hazard Assessments

Another valuable activity for searching out potential occupational health and safety hazards is to review all work tasks associated with job positions.

Standard work procedures are like a “Play Book” which shows all work tasks an employee will perform as part of their job. It also shows the safest, most efficient way to perform those tasks. The onus is on employers to review each task.

As improvements are made, the standard work instructions are updated. Thus, safety is built into all work instructions.

Black and White

Performing structured safety inspections and walkabouts, to assess identified hazards and control measures, ensures a practical approach for identifying potential danger.

These activities are the foundation for the control of workplace hazards. Safety walks and standard work instructions are a proactive approach to safety. They identify all health and safety concerns in black and white for employees.

It does not matter if your work environment is a factory, construction site, or a restaurant; identifying hazards is a key element of an OHS management system. The time and attention will result in fewer accidents and higher worker morale. The more time invested in these activities, the less time will be needed to investigate accidents.

Do your employees understand the difference between a hazard and danger? Do you have a structured approach for identifying hazards? Learn about workplace inspections to identify hazards that may endanger your workers and your business’ bottom line.


If you found the information above useful, then you need to enrol in our Hazard and Inspection training programs for your business.

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