Hazards and Risks - What's the difference? (& who cares!)

We've all heard of hazards and risks, but do we know the difference between them. Some Health and Safety people will have you believe that it's super important to know all the crazy little differences. 
At PeopleSafe we think the difference between them doesn't really matter at all. Over to Zane and Adelaide.

What are Hazards and Risks?

Hazards and risks are often used as an excuse to ban things, "There are to many hazards and risks here to do that." But what actually are they?
Well the good ole' Google says this: 

  • Hazard: A hazard is a situation that poses a level of threat to life, health, property, or environment.
  • Risk: Product of the consequence and probability of a hazardous event or phenomenon.

So basically one is something that could be dangerous and the other is the result of that thing being dangerous. H&S people think it's really important to know the difference between the two. We think that's absolute rubbish. 

Think of this, if your approach to safety is focusing on your people then when you are looking for hazards/risks in your business you're simply looking for the things that could hurt your people. No big debate about hazards vs risks. Is that machinery going to hurt someone? Is lifting heavy things all day going to cause some strain?
It doesn't matter if it is a risk or a hazard, if it seems a bit dodgy and could hurt someone or damage things then you should do something about it.

What should I do?

When we find things that could hurt people in our business we should really do something about it so people stay safe. Forget about the risk assessments and the excel spreadsheets to find out the level of risk, or creating a massive document around one little risk. Simply put together a plan for how you are going to keep people safe. We call it a safety plan.

A safety plan is really easy and should answer these things:

  • What is the risky thing that could hurt people or damage stuff?
  • What is the best and safest way to work around or with it?
  • What training do your people need around it?
  • Who is responsible to make sure people follow this plan?
  • What could happen if things go really wrong? What's the worst case?
  • When things go really wrong, who do you call? What's the plan to get people the help they need?
  • If something does go wrong, how will you learn from it?

When you're creating the plan make sure you involve the people that work with the risky things. Keep your plans practical and easy to follow, then after a month or so of that plan being made, review it. Are people being safer? do we need to change anything?

It does not need to be some big complicated task, needing to be done all at once. Just create simple and effective safety plans for the risky things in your business. We suggest you and your staff look around your business for the top 5 riskiest things that are most likely to hurt someone and create safety plans for those, once you have done that, look at the next five and so on. Or if you are to busy to do five at once look at your top 2 or even top 1. Do it at a pace that suits you, just make sure you actually do it.

What's the difference?

So Hazards and Risks, What's the difference? - It doesn't matter. Whether you call them hazards or risks, there are risky things in all businesses big or small, its apart of life. So find out what they are and create safety plans so you and your people stay safe.

See you next week!


Let us know what you think by commenting below or send an email to questions@peoplesafe.co.nz