A hazard is a situation which poses a level of threat to life, health, property or environment and most hazards are dormant or potential, with only a theoretical risk of harm but once a hazard becomes 'active', it can create an emergency condition. A hazard is usually used to describe a potentially harmful situation but not usually the event itself as once the incident has started it is classified as an emergency or incident.
Various types/modes of hazard:
Dormant - The situation has the potential to be hazardous, but no people, property or environment is currently affected by this and a good example is of a hillside may be unstable, with the potential for a landside, but there is nothing below or on the hillside which could be affected.
Potential - Also known as 'Armed', this is a situation where the hazard is in the position to affect persons, property or environment and this type of hazard is likely to require risk assessment further.
Active - The hazard is certain to cause harm and no intervention is possible before the incident/emergency occurs.
Mitigated - A potential hazard has been identified, but actions have been taken in order to ensure it does not become an incident but this may not be an absolute guarantee of no risk though it is likely to have been undertaken to significantly reduce the danger.
Hazards can be classified accordingly. By its nature, a hazard involves something which could potentially be harmful to a person's life, health, property or to the environment and there are a number of methods of classifying a hazard, but most systems use some variation on the factors of Likelihood of the hazard turning into an incident and the Seriousness of the incident if it were to occur.
The most common method is to score both likelihood and seriousness on a numerical scale with the most likely and most serious scoring highest numbers and multiplying one by the other in order to reach a comparative score so as to calculate the risk.
Risk = (Likelihood of Occurrence of event) x (Seriousness if incident occurred).
This score can then be used to identify which hazards may need to be mitigated and a low score on likelihood of occurrence may mean that the hazard is dormant, whereas a high score would indicate that it may be an Active hazard and needs to be assessed.
There are many causes, but they can broadly be termed into:
l Natural - Natural hazards include anything which is caused by a natural process and can include very obvious hazards.
l Man-made - Hazards created by humans, which includes a huge array of possibilities as it includes long term and sometimes disputed effects.
l Activity related - Some hazards are created by the undertaking of a certain activity, and not conducting the activity will negate the risk.
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