A hazard is any potential source of harm, injury or adverse health effect to a person, or damage to something; an object, process or condition that may expose a person to risk of harm or injury.
Hazards, Causes and Contributing Factors
Using a traditional approach, the primary hazard or source of harm that we seek to eliminate is the motor vehicle incident (or “crash”). However, there are plenty of driving-related hazards that do not involve a crash. Improper seating positions that cause musculo-skeletal injuries, the mental toll of intensely challenging road conditions, or physical violence by a passenger are a few to consider.
As well, applying a traditional, and somewhat restrictive understanding of hazard does not work very well for road safety purposes. Conducting risk assessments using a vastly complex hazard such as “motor vehicle crash” would yield outputs that lack focus and not be sufficiently clear or actionable. A more constructive way to approach road safety risk assessments is to dig a little deeper and look at the practices, behaviours, objects, conditions and circumstances - the factors - that can cause or contribute to a crash.
Therefore, our consideration of driving-related hazards includes practices, conditions, objects and energies that traditional approaches might classify as contributing factors or risk factors.
Consider the following types of hazards and examples.
- objects - a sharp rock, wildlife, worn tire or faulty brake
- substances – gasoline, brake fluid, carbon monoxide, drugs, alcohol
- materials - gravel road surface, ice
- temperature – extreme weather temperatures, contacting a hot surface
- kinetic – the vehicle you are in, or an oncoming vehicle
- gravity - car falling off jack during tire change
- electrical – shock from an incorrect jumper cable connection
- noise - prolonged exposure to a loud exhaust system
- pressure - compressed air or hydraulic fluid
Conditions, processes and practices
- conditions – fatigued driver, poor traction, insufficient lighting or visibility, stressful driving circumstances such as heavy traffic or aggressive drivers,
- processes - insufficient driver training, lack of vehicle inspections or maintenance
- practices – overloading vehicle; high-risk driving behaviours such as speeding, following too close or texting while driving; poor ergonomics such as improperly adjusted seat.
Risk is the possibility or potential for loss.
Three factors determine how much risk is associated with a given hazard:
- Frequency of Exposure – how often and for how long workers are exposed to the hazard.
- Probability of Occurrence – the likelihood that a MVI or other incident will occur.
- Severity of Consequences – the magnitude of loss, negative consequences or impacts.
The following formula explains risk.
Risk = Exposure x Probability x Severity
Download Hazard ID and Risk Assessment Basics (PDF 297KB)
Find other helpful terms and definitions in our Glossary.