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Differences between health hazards and safety hazards

Recently, there have been many concerns regarding the health and safety of employees working in various organizations and industries. With the growth of human welfare departments that try their best to ensure that employees are made to work in the best of conditions and are not exposed to health or safety risks; it has become common to come across a number of health and safety measures being deployed. Be it an employed worker, an ad-hoc employee or a person on a factory tour, the first thing that they are briefed about are the health and safety hazards. Usually, as in the cases discussed, health and safety hazards are discussed together and although both are equally important, they are different. There might be situations where one of them is more important than the other.

The word hazard which is common to both is a potential source of harm or an adverse health effect on the person involved. To understand the difference between the two types of hazards, we first need to understand the difference between health and safety. Health is described as the level of efficiency of the functioning of an individual’s body. A good state of health implies lack of illness, pain or injury. Safety on the other hand refers to a state of being safe, that is, a condition whereby one is protected against physical, social, emotional etc. consequences of failure or any undesirable events.

Health hazards usually affect a person’s health and bring about delayed results. For example a person working in the coal mines is at an increased health risk of developing lung related diseases in the future. Safety is slightly different in this regard. Safety hazards increase the risk level to which a person is exposed and can bring about immediate affects if not dealt with properly. An example can be of a construction worker falling from the ladder and injuring his skull since he did not use the advised safety helmet.

Moreover, health risks may not always be understood or very well defined and sometimes even the cause-effect relationship is not established. It is difficult to firmly conclude the effects of health risks since they usually appear after a long time and there are a number of factors at work. Safety is one thing that is quite clearly prescribed and the possible effects of not following safety tips can almost always be described and warned about.

Since safety risks have an immediate effect, the importance of safety methods and equipment has been emphasised upon for quite some time now. However, health risks which usually take a longer time to show their effects have only been recently addressed with the increase in research, technology and accurate experiments. This is one of the main reasons that during the past few years, health concerns have attracted widespread publicity and the attention of various NGO(s).

Where it is easy to collect and infer data regarding safety, which can be further used to increase safety; studying health risks, collecting data for it and connecting it to its cause, which is usually way back in the past, is very difficult. This makes it almost impossible to act in a proactive manner to decrease health risks although this is very much possible if the risk involved is a safety risk.

A few examples of the two types of hazards will further help to differentiate the two. Health hazards include pollution, harmful emissions, exposure to toxic substances etc. Safety risks include being accidentally hit by moving parts of machinery in a factory which can cause injuries, dislocations or even fractures.

Summary of differences expressed in points

  1. Health is the efficient functioning of an individual’s body; safety is the state of being safe from undesirable events or consequences
  2. Health hazards affect the health, safety hazards make the surrounding conditions unsafe or risky
  3. Health risks take a long time to show their effects, safety risks usually have immediate effects
  4. Easy to judge and deal with safety hazards, they are well understood; health hazards are difficult to catch and deal with as they usually show their effects after a long time
  5. Data collection and inferences is easier for safety hazards compared to health hazards
  6. Examples; safety hazards-getting hit by moving machinery; health hazards-developing bronchitis by inhaling harmful emissions for a sufficient period of time

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References :


[0]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construction_site_safety

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