Risk and Safety

What are accurate definitions of risk and safety? ISO/IEC Guide 51, which is an international standard, gives the following definitions.

What is risk?
Risk is defined as the “combination of the probability of occurrence of harm and the severity of that harm.” In other words,
Risk = Severity of harm × the probability of the occurrence of harm
What is safety?
Safety is defined as “freedom from which is not tolerable" In other words, tolerable risk is still present even when considered “safe”.

Occurrence of Risk

What does it mean for risk to be present? Examine the following figure.

What does it mean for risk to be present?

In the picture on the left, there is a lion, which is a hazard, but this alone is not enough to cause harm to occur. In the picture on the right, a person is present. This introduces the possibility of harm occurring should the lion attack the person. The picture on the right indicates a situation in which “risk” exists. It is necessary to understand that this situation is distinct from the situation in which a “hazard” exists.

Tolerable Risk

Tolerable Risk

The definition of “safety” is “freedom from risk which is not tolerable” according to ISO/IEC Guide 51. In other words, safety can be achieved by risk reduction to a tolerable level.

What is Risk Assessment?

Even if harm does not occur, there may exist potential for risk and harm. If these are left alone, it can be said that the situation possesses a high possibility of industrial accidents occurring. As technology has progressed, a great variety of machines and chemical substances have come to be used, which has led to diversification in the potential for risk and harm. Also, to further reduce industrial accidents, it is necessary to implement safety measures such as safety light curtains and safety laser scanners, in a preemptive, not reactive, manner.

What is risk assessment?
Risk assessment is a method for confirming safety in order to ensure the safety of workers and other individuals and to reduce to the absolute minimum the possibility of harm. It indicates the following process.
  1. (1) Make clear the intended use and usage conditions of the machine and estimate incorrect usage such as operation mistakes.
  2. (2) Identify the hazards present in the machine.
  3. (3) Estimate the degree of risk and the frequency of situations in which risk is present.
  4. (4) Judge whether the degree of risk has been reduced to an acceptable level.
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