What is a Health and Safety Risk?

One of the best ways to identify health and safety risks is to conduct a health and safety risk assessment, however, before exploring this further, it is crucial to first understand the concept surrounding “risks”, what may lead to them, and what they are.

Hazards and Risks

What is a hazard?

Hazards which are related to Occupational Health and Safety, can simply defined as a potential source of harm or an adverse health effect on one or more person.

The term hazard and risk are typically used interchangeably, however, this simple definition clearly shows the distinct difference between the two terms, as they are often confused with one another.

What is a health and safety risk?

A health and safety risk which relates to Occupational Health and Safety can be defined as the likelihood that a person may suffer harm or an adverse health effect if/when exposed to a hazard.

If you have any questions, please feel free to speak to one of our Experts

How are risks categorised?

The level of a health and safety risk can be categorised according to the potential harm or the adverse health effect the hazard may cause in addition to the number of times persons are exposed, and the number of persons who are exposed.

What is a risk assessment?

Risk assessments are a crucial part of any occupational health and safety (OHS) management plan. When risk assessments are done effectively, it enables employers and employees uncover hazards and risks, identify the people who may be at risk, and discover where control measures must be implemented to prevent illness and injury. Click here for a FREE download of the Task Risk Assessment Methodology

What are Risk Control Measures?

Risk control measures consist of actions which can be taken to reduce the potential of exposure to a certain hazard, remove the hazard, or reduce the likelihood of risk of exposure. There are six different control measures which are typically used, ranked from most- to least preferred.


Elimination is not always achievable; however, it entirely removes the hazard and subsequently eliminates the risk, or likelihood of an incident or injury occurring.


Substitution may not remove the hazards which are attributed to the task or the process, and it may introduce different hazards, however, the overall harm or health effects are reduced.


Isolation is achieved through restricting access to plant and/or equipment, or, where substances are concerned, locking them away under strict access controls.

Engineering Controls

These involve the redesigning of a process or activity to insert a barrier between the person and the hazard, or it could remove the hazard from the person. For instance, machine guards, proximity guarding, and more.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls involve the adoption of standard operating procedures or safe work practices, or it also involves the provision of training, instruction, or information to reduce the potential for harm and/or other adverse health effects to a person, or multiple persons.

Personal Protective Equipment

This includes the use of gloves, overalls, glasses, earplugs, aprons, safety shoes, dust masks, face shields, and other equipment to reduce exposure to the hazard. It must be noted that PPE is the last line of defence and it is normally used in conjunction with one, or more, of the other control measures.

Health and Safety Risk

Why are risk assessments important?

Risk assessments work to identify hazards as well as health and safety risks. Risks can depend on a chance that employees may be harmed and to prevent these from causing incidents and accidents, employers are required to conduct a risk assessment, or to appoint a qualified and trained professional, such as a health and safety officer, to conduct one on their behalf.

When should a risk assessment be completed?

The timing associated with a risk assessment typically coincides with changes or processes that occur in the workplace, such as:

  • Before a new activity or process is started.
  • Before there are changes made to current activity or process.
  • When there are hazards identified in the workplace.
  • When it is required by a regulatory entity.
  • When it is scheduled to occur regularly or at a set interval.
  • If an incident or an accident has occurred.

How is the Scope of Work for a Risk Assessment Framed?

For effective risk assessments to be conducted, it is necessary for a thorough scope to be determined. The type of risk assessment that is needed must be relevant and proportionate to the activities being observed.

Some of the most common categories of risk include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Generic risk assessments – which is an overall evaluation that views factors which may affect health and safety in the workplace.
  • Substance risk assessments – which is used when and where there are hazardous substances involved.
  • Digital and equipment risk assessments – which are designed to measure risk to employees and the organisation where digital tools are used.
  • Manual handling risk assessments – are conducted where employees carry, lift, or move loads.
  • Fire risk assessments – is an evaluation on fire exposure sources to ensure that the workplace is fitted with enough fire prevention and mitigation systems.

How does SafetyWallet support its subscribers?

Click on the image below to find a SafetyWallet Solution that suits your business (branch specific) and get the 21 benefits along with the subscription:

SafetyWallet, in partnership with MAKROSAFE and OHS Online, ensures that subscribers can obtain the highest level of compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, all other Regulations, and more.

MAKROSAFE have been assisting clients for more than 23 years with recommendations and risk assessments for a hazard-free environment.
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Through the assistance and support in the health and safety programme of the subscriber, SafetyWallet helps subscribers with the health and safety risk assessments that must be conducted to ensure that subscribers are compliant in providing a healthy and safe working environment.

Keeping your workplace legally Health and Safety Compliant may seem like a daunting task. At MAKROSAFE, we have an experienced team of OHS experts available to assist in keeping your company Health and Safety Compliant according to South African Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 and Regulations.
The MAKROSAFE Health and Safety Risk Control Package will assist you with your Risk Management Programme.
By signing up with our Health and Safety Risk Control Package, MAKROSAFE will assist you with your Risk Management journey.
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Posted date: 22nd Apr 2021
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