Difference between risk and danger

The risk is the likelihood that actual harm occurs while the danger is the potential or ability to cause harm. Consider, for example, a knife. In itself it is a danger because it can cause harm. If the knife is handled by an adult while preparing food, the risk of causing harm is low. On the other hand, if the knife is in the hands of a child, the risk of causing damage is high.

The words “risk” and “danger” are often used synonymously, however, one factor that distinguishes them is choice. That is, the danger is inherent while the risk is elective.

DefinitionPossibility of loss, damage or danger as a result of a decision.Potential for damage or loss resulting from something external.
  • Magnitude of the consequences
  • Probability of the event
  • Nature of damage
  • Intensity of damage
DependenceIt depends on a context or settingDepends on external factors



Economic / financial





ExamplesBet money at the casino.

Get a disease after smoking for 20 years.

Living on the slopes of a volcano.

Smoking while filling the gas tank.





Atomic bombs

What is risk?

Risk can be defined as:

  1. The probability that a favorable or adverse event will occur within a certain time. For example, the risk of pregnancy in a woman can be seen as a favorable event for those who want to have children, or unfavorable for a teenager.
  2. The probability that a specifically unfavorable event will occur within a given time interval. For example, the risk of lung cancer in smokers at age 50.

Risk is in a way the opposite of security.

Risk classification

  • Extremely high : the consequences of the event are extremely serious and highly probable. For example, the risk of brain damage is extremely high in boxers.
  • High : occurs when serious or average damage is likely, or extremely serious damage is unlikely. For example, it is high risk for an astronaut to leave the International Space Station without a protective suit.
  • Intermediate : when serious or extremely serious damage is unlikely, or minor injuries are more likely. For example, cooks or kitchen assistants have an intermediate risk of cutting themselves with knives while preparing food.
  • Low : when the occurrence of mild to moderate injuries is unlikely or unlikely. For example, a 10-year-old boy’s risk of a femur fracture from jumping rope is low.

Risk dimensions

Risk has two dimensions:

  • extent of consequence and
  • probability of occurrence.

In other words, risk is the result of the combination of the probabilities of an event occurring and its consequences.

Probability of an event

To better understand the classification of risks, we must consider the different levels of probabilities:

  • Highly probable : when episodes are known where the event has caused damage.
  • Probable : when some episodes are known where the event has caused damage or can turn into damage.
  • Not very likely : when only occasional cases are known or the event occurs in very specific circumstances.
  • Unlikely – There are no known cases, or the event may occur only from an unfortunate combination of independent and unlikely events.

Consequence of an event

The consequences can be:

  • Extremely serious : when very serious and irreversible injuries, total disability or life-threatening consequences occur.
  • Serious : if there is injury or temporary disability with significant and irreversible injuries.
  • Average : when there is an accident or temporary disability with moderate reversible illness or injury.
  • Light : due to injury or temporary disability with reversible effects.

Risk management

Organized and institutional risk management, also known as risk management or risk management, consists of understanding how accidents occur and developing strategies to prevent or reduce the probability of their occurrence. In this way, risks can be studied, analyzed, prevented and managed.

The concept of risk is not confined to the question of life and death; in fact in economics, particularly in financial markets, risk is usually associated with the loss of money as a result of bad investments, unpaid mortgages and fraudulent accounting.

Within risk management, third parties must also be considered, which are people who do not take part in the activity but are exposed to risks. These can be communities near a nuclear plant, near a route used to transport chemicals or fuel, or people who live near an airport.

The science of risk is the study of the threats that technological systems pose to humanity and the environment. This is about:

  • find explanations for the occurrence of unwanted events;
  • make models of these systems with the focus on describing the risk,
  • predict the future behavior of systems and
  • help those involved find measures to reduce the risks posed by these systems.

Risk types

  • Technological risk: it is present when humans and technologies interact to achieve a particular goal, for example, the people who operate machinery and equipment.
  • Occupational risk : It is the risk of death or injury while doing work.
  • Individual risk : The probability that a person will suffer a particular harm.
  • Localized risk : one that is associated with a locality. For example, in spatial planning it is the frequency that a lethal level of some agent (chemical, thermal wave, radiation) is exceeded in that particular location.
  • Group risk: or social risk is the probability that a group of a certain size will be simultaneously affected by the same event or accident.

Risk according to ISO 45001

The ISO 45001: 2018 standard is the international standard that establishes the indications of an occupational health and safety management system for organizations to control their own risks. The new definition of risk is intended to be the consequence of the unpredictability of an event, where the consequence can be a negative and positive deviation from an expected result.
In this case, negative deviations from expected results are commonly called risks, while positive deviations are called opportunities.

Examples of risk

  • Skating with a helmet and protective gear in a reserved area is intermediate risk; skating without protective gear on a highway is high risk.
  • Living in the vicinity of an international airport is high risk.
  • Driving a car while drunk and without a seat belt is high risk; driving a car sober and wearing a seat belt is intermediate risk.
  • Swimming in a mighty river at night without company is high risk; Swimming in a calm river in broad daylight in the company of other people is low risk.

What is danger?

The word “hazard” is used to define single or combined exposure capable of causing an adverse effect on health or life. We can say that the things that make us feel unsafe are “danger”, also called “threats”.

Hazard dimensions

The hazard has two properties or dimensions:

  • Nature of potential harm.
  • Intensity of damage: that is, how bad is it?

For example, the danger of falling from a ladder. Depending on the height, one can be slightly injured or die. Thus the nature of the damage is physical to the body, and that the damage may be bad enough to cause death.

Types of danger

  • Biological : biological agents that cause illness or death. For example: the poisonous fungus Amanita phaloides , the anthrax.
  • Chemical : chemical agents that cause serious and irreversible injuries. For example: cyanide, concentrated sulfuric acid.
  • Physical : physical agents that can cause damage or injury. For example: electricity, explosions, high temperatures.
  • Environmental : everything that negatively affects the environment. For example: hurricanes, pollution, earthquakes.

Examples of danger

  • Drive a car.
  • Transport fuels and chemicals.
  • Seismic / volcanic zones.
  • Fly in an airplane.
  • Extreme weather conditions.
  • Wild animals.
  • Poisonous plants and mushrooms.
  • Infectious agents: bacteria, viruses, parasites.

You may also be interested in the difference between accident and incident .

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