Identifying hazards Do you know how?


While identifying hazards sounds easy it’s a bit more complicated than that!

Identifying hazards Do you know how?

Many people consider hazards and risks as the same thing but in fact they are two very different items.

A hazard is a source or a situation with the potential for harm in terms of human injury or ill-health, damage to property or the environment or a combination of these.

A risk is the chance something happening that will have a negative effect. The level of risk reflects the likelihood of the unwanted event and the potential consequences of the unwanted event.

A good example is when we were called in to go over a list of hazards on a 30 meter hi-speed cat developed by a crew member. We identified over 20 hazards that we not identified by the crew member who had been working onboard for a number of years.

Three of the hazards identified had the potential to be critical resulting in serious injury! Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation. Often people don’t see a particular hazard or fail to identify the risks associated with it.

The other factor that too many people miss is that a hazard may have multiple risks associated with it. For example, take a low railing on a vessel which would be identified as a hazard with the potential risk of a person falling overboard.

Falling overboard is a high level risk which has a number of other risks associated with it including but not limited to:

  • Injury due to contact with the vessel or other items
  • Bites or stings from marine creatures
  • Drowning
  • And many other risks

So, as you can see a single hazard can have multiple risks associated with it.

Another example is operating a forklift which is another hi-risk hazard with multiple risks attached to it. Risks include but are not limited to:

  • Improper operation and use
  • Overloading
  • Pedestrians
  • Floor conditions
  • Overhead obstructions
  • Attachments
  • And many other risks

To identify hazards, you need to take a long slow walk around your vessel or facility and identify areas and/or items that potentially present hazards.

You need to take into account items that include but are not limited to:

  • Entry/access points
  • Steps
  • Ladders
  • Machinery
  • Vehicles
  • Fuelling points
  • Shelving
  • Railing heights
  • Head heights
  • Confined spaces
  • Working heights
  • And so many other potential hazards specific to your vessel and/or workplace

The above is a very short list of hazards just to give you an idea of what to look for. Many hazards can have multiple hazards attached and here is an example.

On the vessel we mentioned earlier one hazard identified (which was not identified by the crew member) was a mounting for a navigation light. The mounting was located around 1.75 meters above the deck which is around or below head height for many people.

While that’s bad enough there was a bolt attaching the light protruding through the base by around 10cm. As this was located in a passenger area it presented a high level hazard which could result in a serious head injury!

While the crew member missed the low mounting bracket they also missed the very real potential for serious head injuries due to the protruding bolt!

When you’ve identified those items where a hazard exists you then need to look at each one to identify the risks associated with that hazard.

This article was written to give you a broad outline of identifying hazards and what to look for to make the process of hazard identification clearer.

So, while identifying the hazard is the first step breaking down the associated risks is a major component in risk assessment, and we’ll address that next week.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you haven’t gone through the process of undertaking a hazard identification of your vessel or worksite then we strongly recommend you do so now.

Hazard identification and risk assessments are a major part in identifying potential dangers on your vessel or in your workplace AND are a legal requirements under AMSA and WorkSafe.

As stated our number one recommendation is to undertake a hazard identification now if you haven’t done one as yet.


If you’ve undertaken a hazard identification more than 12 months ago or tip is to revise it annually. For commercial vessels, the SMS is required to undergo an Annual Review every year.

For businesses with an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) in place (which all businesses are required to have) they are required to be audited annually.