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What are the types of safety and hazard vs Risk?

What are the types of Safety and Hazard Vs Risk?
What are the types of Safety and Hazard Vs Risk?

What are the types of Safety and Hazard Vs Risk?

Most safety professionals, operation and maintenance peoples generally use the HAZARD terms such as fall hazard, slip hazard, trip hazard, fire hazard, explosion hazard, burn hazard, electric shock hazard, etc. Just think, if all these are hazards, then what is meant by Risk. “Fall hazard” or “Risk of fall” is the right term? “Fire and Explosion hazard” or “Risk of fire and explosion”?
Similarly, most professionals focus more on occupational safety and are not clear about process safety and Industrial safety concept. Occupational safety is important, but we must focus more on process safety to prevent disasters. Failure of occupational safety management can result in one or two fatalities, but failure of process safety management can result in catastrophic disasters resulting in multiple fatalities, total destruction of the industrial facility and huge losses of property and even the complete closure of businesses.
Here we will discuss the concept of different types of safety, try to understand the term hazards and risk and how these terms relate to workplace management.

What is Hazard?

Hazard can be defined as inherent properties of substance or material, source, situation, or act which have potential of harm to people, property or/ environment or a combination of these.
When a hazard is exposed and in contact with Life or Property or Environment (LPE), an incident occurs. The likelihood of hazard exposed and contact with LPE and severity of its consequences is nothing but RISK.

Now let's try to figure it out one by one
What is meant by “inherent properties” of substances or materials?
Its related to the physical, chemical, biological and psychological properties of substances or material or living organism.
For Example,
The inherent properties of hydrocarbon liquid, vapours or gas such as gasoline, diesel, Kerosene, LPG, methane, ethane, etc. is flammability. Thus, the hazard related to all these hydrocarbons is “Flammability hazard
(So, if it gets ignition, it may catch fire and may harm to LPE, So, there is chance of fire and burn injury, and chance means risk. Risk is product of likelihood and consequences. Now here is also clear that the burn is not a hazard. So, henceforth don’t use terms, “burn hazard’ or “fire hazard”)
The inherent properties of HCL and H2SO4 is corrosivity so the hazards associated with these acids is “Corrosivity hazard”.
The inherent or intrinsic or natural properties of animals such as lion, tiger, crocodile, etc. is hunting, they kill the other animals, so they themselves as hazard to other animals.

What is meant by “source”?

It is related to the quantity, physical state, activities, and route of exposure. For example, storage of hydrocarbon, process activities, unnatural movements and postures, heavy lifting, repetitive work, interpersonal conflicts, harassment, intimidation, etc.

What is meant by “situation”?

Situation is related to the workplace conditions or work environment which have penitential to cause harm. Typically, we say unsafe conditions. For example, oil spillage on floor, slippery or uneven walkways, unprotected working platforms at elevation, open pit on floors, cramped working conditions, badly ventilated areas, missing separate path ways for pedestrians, high altitudes, high traffic, noisy locations, poorly lit areas, poor illumination, dusty area, confined spaces, cables laid on walkways, etc.
(So, you might be clear now that slip, trip and falls are risks and not a hazard. Slippery floor and material on walkways are hazards and there is risk of slip, trip and fall)

What is meant by “act”?

Here, act means unsafe act and more related to human acts. For examples, person throwing material from height, not anchoring the body harness while working at height, horseplay in workplace, standing on rear side of forklift, personnel transportation of forklift, personnel movement under suspended load, crossing excavated trench by jumping, etc.
So, now onward, if somebody asks you that what is hazards of gasoline or LPG, don’t say it as a ‘fire hazard’, but it’s flammability hazard. Oil on floor is not ‘slip hazard’ but it is unsafe condition and therefore ‘oil on floor’ itself as hazard. The situation like person working at height, don’t tell as fall hazard but the hazards are height, unprotected edges, unstable working platform, etc.
But some time we can say that there is fire hazard. For example, a person is sitting near the fire, so there is a source of harm as “fire”, here the fire becomes a source. In this case, we can say that there is a fire hazard or heat hazard.

Types of hazards

Hazards are generally divided into five categories

Physical hazards: 

Some environmental factors that have potential of harm to peoples.
Eg. Noise, extreme cold, heat by sunlight, extreme temperatures, etc

Biological hazards: 

Related to bacteria, virus and fungi which have potential to infect peoples. Here bad bacteria, virus and some fungi are itself as hazard to human as they may cause Hepatitis, etc.

Chemical hazards: 

Chemicals which have potential to cause skin irritation, illness, or respiration problems.
Eg. Mercury, chlorine, H2S, Acids, hydrocarbons, etc.

Ergonomic hazards: 

Hazard related to very repetitive handling or improper handling of material, wrong repetitive practices or any other repetitive work and awkward movements, and other situations where the body and muscles are overworked.
Eg. Operation of hand breaking machine, wrong seating posture, inapproachable materials, etc


Safety hazards: 

Substandard act and unsafe conditions in a workplace that have potential of harm to peoples where persons may directly expose to it.
Eg. Oil spills, heights, unguarded machinery, confined space, uneven surfaces, etc.

Psychological hazards: 

It is related to mental condition which has potential to loss control and may cause harm.
Eg. Stress, fatigue, etc.

What is Risk?

Risk is product of likelihood (probability) and consequences; we can say the chance of unintentional events or incident. For example, there is an oil spill on the walkways, so when people pass by there and steps on oil, person may or may not slip and fall. If fall, it may or may not cause injury.
If the person falls but does not cause an injury, or if the person slips but does not fall, somehow, he balanced himself and no injury such events are called as Near miss incident. But when falls and sustain injury (i.e. harm to person) are called as accidents.
So, when calculating the probability (likelihood) of the above event, some factors may be taken into account such as exposure to hazards (how many people enter that road or aisles), how many times people enter in contact with spilled oil, how many times the person slips, how many times people fall after a slip, how many times people fall without being injured, and how many times people fall and be injured.
As to the consequences, how severe it will be, whether the person may be injured and need first aid, or medical treatment, or death may occur.

All of the above factors should be taken into account when assessing the risk.

What is Safety?

Safety can be defined as condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury or simply we can say as “Freedom from Accident”.
But the correct and best definition is “A state or condition in which the risk of harm to persons or property or environment damage is reduced to and maintained at or below an acceptable level through a continual process of hazard identification and risk assessment”
Concept of Safety
Remember, as safety is condition and is therefore subject to change, any changes in environment would automatically require a re-look at safety conditions.

Occupational safety

Occupation safety is work related safety in workplace. It can be defined as a state or conditions or factors in which the risk of harm to persons in the workplace is reduced to and maintained at or below an acceptable level through a continual process of hazard identification and risk assessment”
Here, the persons may be employees, any type of workmen, visitors, or any other persons in the workplace.

Industrial safety

It is related to management of all operations, activities and events within an industry in which the risk of harm to persons or property or environment damage is reduced to and maintained at or below an acceptable level through a continual process of hazard identification and risk assessment”

Process safety

Process Safety is related to managing the integrity of operating systems and processes handling hazardous substances by applying good designing principles, engineering, and operating practices to prevent and control release of hazardous materials or energy. The result of failure of process safety is more significant as compare to occupations safety.


Fall, slip, trip, explosion are not the hazards but are different types of risk. Material properties, unsafe conditions and act are the hazards and product of likelihood to hazard exposure and consequences is called as Risk. There are different types of safety and hazards related to activities and exposure. 
All above different type of safety is systematically managed by a management system called Safety Management System (SMS) and we can define as a systematic approach to managing the safety, including the necessary organizational structures, accountability, policies, and procedures by continual process of hazard identification, controls, and risk management.

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