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There are many definitions for hazard but the most common definition when talking about workplace health and safety is “A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone.”
The CSA Z1002 Standard "Occupational health and safety - Hazard identification and elimination and risk assessment and control" uses the following terms:
Basically, a hazard is the potential for harm or an adverse effect (for example, to people as health effects, to organizations as property or equipment losses, or to the environment).
Please see the OSH Answers on Hazard and Risk for more information.
Hazard identification is part of the process used to evaluate if any particular situation, item, thing, etc. may have the potential to cause harm. The term often used to describe the full process is risk assessment:
Overall, the goal of hazard identification is to find and record possible hazards that may be present in your workplace. It may help to work as a team and include both people familiar with the work area, as well as people who are not – this way you have both the experienced and fresh eye to conduct the inspection.
Hazard identification can be done:
To be sure that all hazards are found:
A common way to classify hazards is by category:
Another way to look at health and safety in your workplace is to ask yourself the following questions. These are examples only. You may find other items or situations that can be a hazard. List any item that should be examined. During the risk assessment process, the level of harm will be assessed.
What materials or situations do I come into contact with? Possibilities could include:
What materials or equipment could I be struck by?
What objects or equipment could I strike or hit my body upon, or that part of my body might be caught in, on, or between?
What could I fall from? (e.g., falls to lower levels)
What could I slip or trip on? (e.g., falls on same level)
How could I overexert myself?
What other situations could I come across?
It may be necessary to research about what might be a hazard as well as how much harm that hazard might cause. Sources of information include:
If you are new to your workplace, to learn about the hazards of your job, you can: