Risk vs. Hazard

Difference Between Risk and Hazard


Many words that have similar meanings in the dictionary, some even considered synonyms, actually meaning different things when used in real life conversations or situations. In these instances, it is important to know the word’s correct usage and connotations so we can properly utilize the said word in suitable situations. A perfect example of such words is hazard and risk. Although some claim them to be synonyms and that they have similar meanings, health and insurance departments consider them to be completely different.



Risks are chances taken that may or may not bring harm. Risk is sometimes negligible and sometimes very high. A close examination of our daily activities often reveals many risks. Since we are rational in nature, we deal with this by assessing the risk level either consciously or unconsciously. For example, right before we cross a road we examine first our surroundings and the traffic; whether it’s safe or too risky, if the light for pedestrians is green, or if ever we should cross on a red light; would it be too risky? Same decision making and assessment occurs when we examine the risks and even the hazards involved in caring for our family, the food we eat and other things.



A hazard, however, is anything that can surely cause harm. Examples of these include electricity, chemicals, stress or even bullying at the school or workplace. Hazards are generally considered present if a situation or object that may cause adverse effects on its surroundings exists within immediate range. This could be explosions, toxic leakages, viral outbreaks and the likes.

Differentiating Between the Two


The line separating risk and hazard can be hard to spot, so extra caution is needed in using these words. A number of experts claim that in a situation with constant factors and surroundings, the risk level associated with every action is directly proportional to the hazard that may arise. In reality, however, factors tend to change constantly.

To understand better their differences, let us relate the terms to our daily lives. Let’s take for example the Potassium Dichromate, which is toxic, but is normally used in analyzing alcohol presence in a person’s breath. This chemical is always sealed and covered properly, so, although it’s quite hazardous, using it as it should be used does not really present too much risk. In a similar sense, not many people consider flour as a form of hazard; yet, a baker who is exposed to flour, especially when it becomes airborne, is at risk of being victim to certain diseases like dermatitis, rhinitis and asthma. These illnesses severely affect the skin, nose and lungs, and can sometimes cause death; thus risk is obviously involved in being a simple baker.

In conclusion, hazards must be present for there to be risk. The two, in reality, exists together. If there are no hazards to be exposed to, then there would also be no risk at all.