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A hazard is a potential source of harm. Substances, events, or circumstances can constitute hazards when their nature would allow them, even just theoretically, to cause damage to health, life, property, or any other interest of value. The probability of that harm being realized in a specific incident, combined with the magnitude of potential harm, make up its risk, a term often used synonymously in colloquial speech.

Hazards can be classified in several ways. They can be classified as natural, anthropogenic, technological, or any combination therefore, such as in the case of the natural phenomenon of wildfire becoming more common due to human-made climate change or more harmful due to changes in building practices. A common theme across many forms of harzards is the presence of stored energy that, when released, can cause damage. Stored energy can occur in many forms: chemical, mechanical, thermal, radioactive, electrical, etc. Situations can also be hazardous, as for example confined or limited egress spaces, oxygen-depleted atmospheres, awkward positions, repetitive motions, low-hanging or protruding objects, etc. They may also be classified as health or safety hazards, by the populations that may be affected, and the severity of the associated risk. In most cases a hazard may affect a range of targets, and have little or no effect on others.

Identification of hazards assumes that the potential targets are defined, and is the first step in performing a risk assessment.

The terms "hazard" and "risk" are often used interchangeably. However, in terms of risk assessment, these are two very distinct terms. A hazard is an agent that can cause harm or damage to humans, property, or the environment.[21] Risk is the probability that exposure to a hazard will lead to a negative consequence, or more simply, a hazard poses no risk if there is no exposure to that hazard.

Risk can be defined as the likelihood or probability of a given hazard of a given level causing a particular level of loss of damage. The elements of risk are populations, communities, the risk" are often used interchangeably. However, in terms of risk assessment, these are two very distinct terms. A hazard is an agent that can cause harm or damage to humans, property, or the environment.[21] Risk is the probability that exposure to a hazard will lead to a negative consequence, or more simply, a hazard poses no risk if there is no exposure to that hazard.

Risk can be defined as the likelihood or probability of a given hazard of a given level causing a particular level of loss of damage. The elements of risk are populations, communities, the built environment, the natural environment, economic activities and services which are under threat of disaster in a given area.[3] The total risk according to UNDRO 1982 is the "sum of predictable deaths, injuries, destruction, damage, disruption, and costs of repair and mitigation caused by a disaster of a particular level in a given area or areas.

David Alexander [3]:13 distinguishes between risk and vulnerability say

Risk can be defined as the likelihood or probability of a given hazard of a given level causing a particular level of loss of damage. The elements of risk are populations, communities, the built environment, the natural environment, economic activities and services which are under threat of disaster in a given area.[3] The total risk according to UNDRO 1982 is the "sum of predictable deaths, injuries, destruction, damage, disruption, and costs of repair and mitigation caused by a disaster of a particular level in a given area or areas.

David Alexander [3]:13 distinguishes between risk and vulnerability saying that "vulnerability refers to the potential for casualty, destruction, damage, disruption or other form of loss in a particular element: risk combines this with the probable level of loss to be expected from a predictable magnitude of hazard (which can be considered as the manifestation of the agent that produces the loss)." As hazards have varying degrees of severity, the more intense or severe the hazard, the greater vulnerability there will be as potential for damage and destruction is increased with respect to severity of hazard. Ben Wisner argues that risk or disaster is "a compound function of the natural hazard and the number of people, characterised by their varying degrees of vulnerability to that specific hazard, who occupy the space and time of exposure to the hazard event." (Wisner, et al., 1994).[citation needed]

Another definition of risk is "the probable frequency and probable magnitude of future losses". This definition also focuses on the probability of future loss whereby degree of vulnerability to hazard represents the level of risk on a particular population or environment. The threats posed by a hazard are:

Hazard symbols or warning symbols are easily recognisable symbols designed to warn about hazardous materials, locations, or objects, The use of hazard symbols is often regulated by law and directed by standards organisations. Hazard symbols may appear with different colors, backgrounds, borders and supplemental information in order to specify the type of hazard and the level of threat (for example, toxicity classes). Warning symbols are used in many places in lieu of or addition to written warnings as they are quickly recognized (faster than reading a written warning) and more universally understood, as the same symbol can be recognized as having the same meaning to speakers of different languages.

See also