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Risk assessment and management

While many people use the terms “hazard” and “risk” interchangeably, they are actually quite different. “Hazard” refers to something that can cause harm, like a machine, electricity, or toxic fumes. “Risk” refers to how likely a hazard is to occur and how damaging it will be should it occur. Hazard is generally used within the context of safety/injury, while risk can refer to financial “hazards” (losses), IT networks, and a variety of other topics.

Most safety professionals have at some point handed upper management a list of hazards or “compliance issues” found in an audit. In response, a member of upper management likely asked, “So, what does this mean?” Too often, the safety professional responds by mentioning the possibility of the company being inspected and fined, or listing the regulations being violated. To better communicate with upper management, safety professionals should learn the language of upper management and frame their safety guidance and advice in terms of risk.