Difference between Danger and Risk

We explain the difference between danger and risk, the relationship between the two and the origins of each term. Also, types of danger and risk.

Difference between danger and risk
Risk indicates what negative consequences a hazard could bring.

What is the difference between danger and risk?

It is not uncommon to confuse the notions of risk and danger in colloquial speech, since both refer to unwanted things that can happenBut in more technical or specific areas, such as prevention or insurance, the distinction between the two terms becomes very important. To fully understand it, let’s look at both concepts first.

A hazard is an event or situation that poses a threat for the integrity of people, their property or the environment, as it embodies the possibility that a potentially harmful incident may occur in one way or another. The hazard can be presented as a dangerous situation or dangerous item.

This word comes from Latin periculum, “Proof” or “attempt” and therefore “risk”, and adjectives are usually added that make explicit the conditions under which said harmful incident would occur: a “real” danger, if the incident could occur here and now, or a “potential” danger if the conditions are in place for the incident to occur in the future, either in the short, medium or long term.

Instead, risk is the measure of the magnitude of the damage that a dangerous incident could cause. That is, what negative consequences could it bring, or what probability of damage exists once it actually occurs. The word comes from Italian rischio, “Cliff”, given the danger that the transit through these places represented for the vessels.

As in the case of danger, we usually distinguish between different types of risks: risk of death, health risk, biological risk, financial risk, occupational risk, etc., depending on the type of consequences that could occur in each case.

Seen this way, the difference between danger and risk is that between an agent and the consequences of his action. Any danger is capable of causing damage, and therefore involves a risk, or what is the same, the risk is what could be violated if measures are not taken to face a danger.

Let’s see it with an example. Suppose that in a pesticide factory, the safety committee discovers a small leak of a highly toxic gas. Of course, such a leak is a danger, since the gas itself is dangerous: its effects on the human body can be lethal.

So the personnel working in the factory, if the leak is not remedied immediately, is at risk of death, risk of poisoning and occupational risk. At the same time, if the company doesn’t fix it and people die, they will undoubtedly run the risk of receiving a multimillion dollar lawsuit from the families of any victims.

Another example, simpler still: an asteroid that is heading at full speed towards Earth is a danger to life on the planet, since its impact would be catastrophic on a global level. That is why space agencies have space surveillance systems, so as not to run the risk of the asteroid being discovered when it is too late.