The hazard presented by a substance is its potential to cause harm. A hazard is associated with the degrees of danger, and is quantifiable.

The risk from a substance is the likelihood that it will cause harm in the actual circumstance of use. This will depend upon:

  • The hazard presented by the substance
  • How it is used
  • How it is controlled
  • Who is exposed and for how long

Risk can be thought of in terms of chance taking. What are the odds – the probability – of an accident occurring? Risk can be taken after careful consideration or out of ignorance. The result can be fortuitous or disastrous, or anything in between.

The link between hazard and risk must be understood. In terms of the COSHH regulations, poor control can create substantial risk even from a substance with low hazard. But, with proper controls, the risk of being harmed by even the most hazardous substance is greatly reduced.

Danger is associated with situations where there is a distinct possibility of:

  • Interchanges of energy above tolerance level
  • An organization’s financial well-being being placed at risk because of deficiencies in management, which may result in lack of human resources, deficiencies of design or failure to meet legal obligations