“Hazards” and “Risks” are words commonly used and heard in the workplace. While some people think these two mean the same thing, they are actually different.


Hazard is any source of potential harm or damage to humans, to property, to the environment or a combination of these. Hazard can be a thing, a condition, or a behavior. Generally, it is anything that can cause harm. Sometimes the effect is referred to as a hazard instead of the actual source of the consequence. For example, the COVID-19 might be called a hazard by some, but in general, the Corona Virus is considered a hazard or hazardous biological agent.

Here are some examples to help you identify hazards:

Examples of HazardsHarm Caused
Wet floorSlips
ElectricityShock, electrocution
CoronaVirusCoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Transfer of hydrocarbons with pumpRelease of hydrocarbon to the environment
Storing of LPGCold burns
Working at heightFalls


Risk is the possibility of something bad happening if exposed to a hazard. It refers to the chance that the person will be harmed or injured, the environment will be affected or the property will be damaged if exposed to the hazard. Risks are expressed in probability or likelihood of developing a consequence like a disease and an injury. To understand further, here are some examples of risks based on the hazards in the previous table.

Examples of HazardsRisksHarm Caused
KnifeKnife left uncovered every meal preparationCut
Wet floorWet floor without signages every morningSlips
ElectricityExposed wires during monthly maintenanceShock, electrocution
CoronaVirusExposure to the virus when going to public placesCoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Transfer of hydrocarbons with pumpPump leak during transfer of hydrocarbons once per weekEnvironmental damage
Storing of LPGRelease of 5 gallons of LPG once a yearCold burns
​Working at heightWorking at a 3-layer scaffold every start-upFalls

Several factors influence the degree or likelihood of risk. These include the nature of exposure (e.g. every day), how the exposure happens (e.g. skin contact), and the severity of the effect (e.g. skin cancer vs skin irritation). 

Oftentimes, hazards and risks are used interchangeably. To make it simpler, look at the illustration below.

The illustration above shows that the wet floor is the agent that can potentially cause harm. The wet floor can not harm anyone if an action will not happen, like an engineer running across the floor. Once an action is done, the word “risk” applies. The presence of a wet floor and the running engineer is now a risk. The risk can be influenced by how fast the engineer is or how wet the floor is.

It is also important to determine the hazard and the potential harm it can cause to eliminate risk. However, the hazard may remain even if the risk is minimized. These can be further understood through Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment and Control which aims to determine hazards, level of risk, and how to control the effect.

Government of Western Australia. (n.d.). From What is a hazard and what is risk?: https://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/Safety/What-is-a-hazard-and-what-is-4721.aspx
Hasa. (2017, February 7). Pediaa. From Difference Between Hazard and Risk: https://pediaa.com/difference-between-hazard-and-risk/
Hazards and Risks. (2020, July 10). From Safety, Canadian Centre fo Occupational Health and Safety: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/hazard_risk.html