What Is Hazard? What You Didn’t Know!!!

In this article, we are going back to the basic; What is Hazard?


Hazard has been defined by different persons and groups, from different context and perspectives.

However, the aim of this article is to pin-point the main elements in the definition that actually qualifies what an hazard actually is and also highlight some misunderstanding associated with some definitions.


Lets see the major definitions –


What Is Hazard?

  • According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS): A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone. Basically, a hazard is the 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).

Sometimes the resulting harm is referred to as the hazard instead of the actual source of the hazard. For example, the disease tuberculosis (TB) might be called a “hazard” by some but, in general, the TB-causing bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) would be considered the “hazard” or “hazardous biological agent”.

  • According to Wikipedia: A hazard is an agent which has the potential to cause harm to a vulnerable target. Hazards can be both natural or human induced. Sometimes natural hazards such as floods and drought can be caused by human activity.


  • In another definition: A hazard is said to be a source or a situation with the potential for harm in terms of human injury or ill-health, damage to property, damage to the environment, or a combination of these. Hazards at work may include noisy machinery, a moving forklift, chemicals, electricity, working at heights, a repetitive job, or inappropriate behaviour that adversely affects a worker’s safety and health.
  • According to the Health & Safety Authority (HSE):When we refer to hazards in relation to occupational safety and health the most commonly used definition is ‘A Hazard is a potential source of harm or adverse health effect on a person or persons’. The terms Hazard and Risk are often used interchangeably but this simple example explains the difference between the two.


If there was a spill of water in a room then that water would present a slipping hazard to persons passing through it. If access to that area was prevented by a physical barrier then the hazard would remain though the risk would be minimised.

  • According to Health and Safety Executive: A hazard is anything that may cause harm; these can be hazards to physical health such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer or to mental health – if, for example the common causes of work-related mental ill health e.g. demands, control and support for individuals are not properly managed in the workplace


The aim of highlighting the different definitions was to create a background.


If you have read the different definitions closely, you will notice the words that have been used to describe HAZARD; SOURCE, AGENT, SITUATION AND THING.


None of the definition is actually wrong in the true sense, but in my opinion some are not complete as it does not cover what hazard is in totality.


We have been talking about unsafe act and unsafe conditions as the major cause of accident in the workplace which is absolutely correct.


Here are my line of argument


  • Act is carried out by a human being and THING refers to an inanimate object- So saying that a hazard is any THING does not portray the human factor in the HAZARD CREATION.
  • Most definition do not bring in the place of PROCESS in the definition. For instance, referring to an hazards as an AGENT or THING do not give the full description of what an hazard iS; also coming from the literally meaning of the words.


Read Also6 Major types of hazards you should know


I believe hazard should cover – Thing, person, place & process. Still coming from the literary perspective, and the only word that could cover all parameters is SOURCE.


Hence, hazard can better be defined as a potential SOURCE OF HARM AND DAMAGE TO PERSONS, EQUIPMENT OR ENVIRONMENT.




Based on my assertion, i want to define hazard in my own way, fixing the different ingredients:




An hazard is A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF HARM which could result to injury, ill health, or damage to person(s), property or the environment.


NOTE: Anything can be an hazard depending on its current state.


For example, a vehicle at its parking state is not an hazard, but when moving, it constitute an hazard. The same can be said about a person in his sober state; in a sober state he is no hazard, but when intoxicated with mental altering substances, he will become an hazard to persons around him.