What Is the Difference Between an Acute Hazard and a Chronic Hazard?

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Q:What is the difference between an acute hazard and a chronic hazard?

Chronic and acute hazards can be compared to acute and chronic diseases. Acute refers to extremely severe, short-term, dangerous scenarios. On the other hand, chronic refers to a condition that occurs over a long period of time.

Chronic hazards are always present, recurring or habitual. Examples would be danger of falling if you are a window washer or danger of H2 exposure if you are a worker in an upstream oil or gas worksite.

Acute hazards are hazards that appear suddenly like a fallen electrical line or a break in a gas line or a pressure buildup in a nuclear plant. Acute hazards might involve having to clear an obstruction from a machine.

Injuries sustained from acute hazards can become chronic medical conditions. For example, a fall as a result of a downed power line can result in chronic backache pain. On the other hand, acute hazards may result in very short-term injuries.

Acute and chronic hazards will be present in every workplace. You can plan for and avoid chronic hazards like falls or cluttered floors. Acute hazards like downed power lines, floods, pressure exceeded machines, fire, explosion, dangerous driving, or loose machine parts require on-the-spot avoidance. Constant checking and maintenance to avoid acute hazards and having a workplace policy clearly outlining what to do in case of such emergencies are parts of a good contingency plan.

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