There are many definitions for hazard but the most common definition when talking about workplace health and safety is “A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone.”
- Harm – physical injury or damage to health.
- Hazard – a potential source of harm to a worker.
Basically, a hazard is a potential for harm or an adverse effect (for example, to people as health effects, to organizations as property or equipment losses, or to the environment).
Hazard identification is part of the process used to evaluate if any particular situation, item, thing, etc. may have the potential to cause harm. The term often used to describe the full process is risk assessment:
- Identify hazards and risk factors that have the potential to cause harm (hazard identification).
- Analyze and evaluate the risk associated with that hazard (risk analysis, and risk evaluation).
- Determine appropriate ways to eliminate the hazard, or control the risk when the hazard cannot be eliminated (risk control).
Overall, the goal of hazard identification is to find and record possible hazards that may be present in your workplace. It may help to work as a team and include both people familiar with the work area, as well as people who are not – this way you have both the experienced and fresh eye to conduct the inspection.
What types of hazards are there?
A common way to classify hazards is by category:
- biological – bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, birds, animals, and humans, etc.,
- chemical – depends on the physical, chemical, and toxic properties of the chemical,
- ergonomic – repetitive movements, improper set up of workstation, etc.,
- physical – radiation, magnetic fields, temperature extremes, pressure extremes (high pressure or vacuum), noise, etc.,
- psychosocial – stress, violence, etc.,
- safety – slipping/tripping hazards, inappropriate machine guarding, equipment malfunctions or breakdowns.
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