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Basic Occupational Health and Safety Definitions

Some Basic Occupational Health and Safety Definitions

Before the full discussion of health and safety issues or problems can take place, some of the basic occupational health and safety definitions are required to understand.


The protection of the bodies and the minds of the people from illness or the sickness resulting from the processes, materials, or procedures used in the workplace.


The protection of people from physical injury. The borderline between health and safety is ill-defined, and the two words are normally used together to indicate concern for the physical and mental well-being of the individual at the place of work.


The provision of the facilities to maintain the health and well-being of the individuals at the workplace. The Welfare facilities include the washing and the sanitation arrangements, heating, lighting, accommodation for the clothing, the provision of the drinking water, seating (when required by the work activity or for the rest), eating, and the restrooms. First-aid arrangements are also considered welfare facilities.


Occupational or the Work-Related ill Health

It is concerned with those illnesses or the physical and mental disorders that are either caused/or induced by workplace activities. Such conditions/situations may be produced/induced by the particular work activity of the individual/person or by the actions/activities of the others in the workplace.

The period between the exposure and the onset of the illness may be short/little (e.g. asthma attacks) or prolonged (e.g. deafness or cancer).

Environmental Protection

These are the arrangements/adjustments to cover those of the activities in the workplace which affect/influence the environment (in the form of flora, water, fauna, air, and the soil) and, possibly, the health and safety of the employees/workers and the others. Such activities include waste and effluent disposal and atmospheric pollution.


It is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘ any unplanned/unwanted event that results in the injury or the ill health of people, or damage or the loss to the property, plant, materials or the environment or the loss of a business opportunity. Other authorities define an accident more narrowly by excluding the events that do not involve the injury or the ill health.

Near Miss

A near miss is an unplanned/unintentional incident/event that could have resulted in an accident or caused damage, injury, or death but was close(ly) avoided. The Knowledge of the near misses is essential as the research has shown that, approximately, for every ten ‘ near miss ’ events at a particular location in the workplace, a minor accident will occur/happen.

Dangerous Occurrence

It is a ‘ near miss ’ which could have led to the severe injury or loss of life. Dangerous occurrences are defined/described in the Reporting of the Injuries, Diseases and the Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (often known as the RIDDOR) and are always reportable to the enforcement authorities.

Examples include the collapse/destruction of the scaffold or the crane or the failure of any passenger-carrying equipment.

Hazard and Risk

A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm (this can include articles, substances, plants or machines, methods of working, the working environment, and other aspects of work organization). Hazards take many forms, including chemicals, electricity, and working from a ladder. A hazard can be ranked relative to other hazards or a possible level of danger.

A risk is the likelihood of potential harm from that hazard being realized. Risk (or strictly the level of risk) is also linked to the severity of its consequences. A risk can be reduced and the hazard controlled by good management.

It is very important to distinguish between a hazard and a risk – the two terms are often confused, and activities such as construction workers are frequently called high risk when they are high hazard. Although the hazard will continue to be high, the risks will be reduced as controls are implemented. The level of risk remaining when controls have been adopted is known as the residual risk. There should only be a high residual risk where there is poor health and safety management and inadequate control measures.

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