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Alex Hamer
Written by Alex Hamer

Hazards & Risks

What is classed as a Hazard, and what is a Risk?

A hazard is a situation that creates a threat to life, health, property, the environment, personal integrity, etc. Hazards differ from risks, in that risks describe the potential for a situation such as a hazard to cause harm.

From a health and safety perspective, a hazard may be seen as a condition with the potential to cause physical impairment or health consequences in people (or any other type of life). 

In a project environment, a hazard is anything that may affect the success of project activities or the project as a whole. Similarly, companies, ventures, physical assets, the environment and society face hazards.

Mosaic asks users to consider all aspects of a project when completing the HARI, and asks how they might affect construction operatives, the public, the user of the building or future maintenance operatives once the building is under occupation.

Most hazards are potential or latent but if a hazardous situation becomes 'effective', it can cause an incident, an accident or even a disaster.

Some of the most common hazards in construction include:

  • Working with or near heavy plant and machinery.
  • Working with tools and equipment.
  • Working with live electricity.
  • Working at height.
  • Lifting operations.
  • Demolition.
  • The presence of hazardous substances such as asbestos.
  • Exposure to chemicals.
  • Structural collapse and falling debris.
  • Material and manual handling.
  • Hand arm vibration syndrome.
  • Loud noise.
  • Slips, trips and falls.
  • Working long and physically-demanding shifts.
  • Working in confined spaces.
  • Sharp objects.
  • Hot works.
  • Fire.
  • Water.

Where these hazards are unavoidable and the package of work cannot be designed out, it is common practice for designers to advise safe working practices or prevention techniques which can be employed to reduce, or mitigate entirely, the risk.

Some common prevention techniques which can often be adopted to reduce the risk of hazards include:

  • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Regular safe waste disposal.
  • Provision of modern tools and equipment.
  • Staff and visitor training.
  • Ties, chutes and netting to prevent falling debris.
  • Signage warning of hazards.
  • Proper assignment of operatives.
  • Keeping sites secure.
  • Zoning of activities.
  • Emergency procedures.