Risk Meaning & Definition | EcoOnline
Health & Safety Glossary



What is Risk?

Risk is defined as the possibility of a hazard actually causing harm. Risk refers to the uncertainty that something may result in a loss or injury. In the workplace, risk is simply the probability that certain hazards may end up hurting employees.

Risks can be of different types, ranging from business risk, financial risk, personal risk, health risks, and many others. Companies use various techniques to identify risks and then plan to eliminate or mitigate them.

The Difference Between Risks and Hazards

There is a stark difference between risks and hazards. A hazard is defined as any specific source or object that may cause harm. Anything that has the potential to cause harm to someone or damage something can be considered a hazard. 

For instance, a sharp, protruding object in the workplace can be a hazard. It’s important for companies to recognize hazards and provide adequate training to their employees on how to avoid them. 

Risk is defined as the probability that a hazard may end up causing harm to someone. For instance, if that same pointy object is in a common area with a higher footfall, there’s an increased risk of injury. 

On the other hand, if it’s situated where employees can’t reach, then the risk it poses is considerably less. Risk is generally expressed as a probability, while hazard is the source.

Factors That Influence Risk

There are several factors that influence risk: 

  • Extent of exposure: a person who’s exposed to hazards for longer is at an elevated risk of getting injured. 
  • Type of exposure: the way a person was exposed to the hazard can also influence the degree of risk. some hazards may lead to more severe consequences than others. For instance, it may result in a long-term injury or disability, while others may cause a minor bruise.
  • Severity of exposure: some hazards may lead to more severe consequences than others. For instance, it may result in a long-term injury or disability, while others may cause a minor bruise.

How to Identify Risks

One of the most common ways to identify risks in the workplace is to conduct a risk assessment. A risk assessment is a process where EHS teams or safety personnel use different techniques to identify hazards in the workplace. 

Once the team has identified all hazards in the environment, they analyze them individually to determine the risk that they pose. Risk analysis is a common method that’s used to determine how much risk a hazard may pose.

Then, the team recommends different ways to either eliminate or mitigate the risk, thus bringing it within acceptable parameters. 

The risk assessment plan must be shared with the employees and in some cases, to relevant authorities as well. It shows that the company is taking appropriate steps to mitigate risk and ensure the safety of its employees.

It’s pertinent to mention here that risk assessment is an ongoing process. Companies often conduct thorough risk assessments after a specific period, or when a safety incident occurs. 

This way, if any new hazards are identified, or if the severity of existing hazards increases, the company can look for different ways to ensure the safety of all stakeholders.

How to Manage Risk in the Workplace

Developing an effective risk management strategy is an important part of managing and mitigating risks in the workplace. Here’s how it works.

1. Identify Risk Factors

The first step involves using different approaches to identify all risk factors and hazards in the workplace. Companies can use ethnographic techniques like observation and inspections, or conduct surveys with employees.

2. Risk Assessment

Once the risk factors have been identified, the company then starts to plan on how to mitigate or eliminate these risks. The list of hazards is ordered in terms of priority, with the greatest risk factors being addressed first.

3. Train the Employees

Communicating with and training employees on all of these strategies is the next step. Once the company has established effective safety controls, they can train the managers and supervisors. 

The line managers work with the employees and guide them on all the hazards and the steps they need to take to mitigate these risks.

4. Risk Monitoring

A key component of an effective risk management strategy is risk monitoring. Once the controls have been implemented, the safety managers continue to monitor these hazards to ensure that controls work properly.

In case a safety event does occur, the team should conduct an investigation to determine if the controls failed, or if it was due to some other reason.

They may decide to conduct another risk assessment after an incident.

This helps companies identify any emerging risks and account for them before they result in a serious safety issue.

Use EcoOnline to Manage Risk Effectively in the Workplace

The EcoOnline Health & Safety Software has a built-in risk assessment module that lets you standardize your approach towards risk management. It is a cloud-based health and safety solution that’s modular and can be customized depending on work conditions. 

EcoOnline helps you bring all your EHS risk assessments in one place, and allows assessors to carefully review information while developing important safety controls.