Risk and danger: are they the same?

Although they are often used synonymously, risk and danger are not the same thing. Discover the main differences!

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The terms risk and danger are often used synonymously, but are they the same thing? We clarify it to you from now on: no, the differences are subtle but significant. Broadly speaking, we can say that risk refers to the possibility of an adverse or harmful event occurring, and is intrinsically linked to uncertainty and probability. Meanwhile, danger indicates an immediate or potential threat to the health, safety or well-being of people, without necessarily implying an assessment of probability. 

Risk goes hand in hand with probability 

Risk is a measure of the probability and magnitude of an adverse event or loss that may occur in the future. In the work context, this may include accidents, occupational illnesses, or property damage. Likewise, it is important to understand that completely eliminating risk is almost impossible. 

However, risk management can be carried out to identify, evaluate and mitigate its negative impact and maximize opportunities. Within the scope of risk, three distinctions can be made: 

  • Pure risk: refers to the possibility of an event occurring and resulting in a loss. For example, crashes, collisions, fires or collapses. 
  • Residual risk: Remains after control measures have been implemented to mitigate the hazards. Although risk cannot be completely eliminated, it must be continuously monitored and managed to reduce it as much as possible.  
  • Acceptable risk: this indicates the risk that a person, organization or society is willing to tolerate or accept based on its objectives, resources and values. It is based on a balance between available resources and the mechanisms used to minimize or mitigate risks. 

Danger and caution in response  

Hazard refers to any condition, situation or event that has the potential to cause harm, injury, illness or loss to people or any other matter of concern. In this sense, circumstances that pose a threat to safety and well-being are often seen as dangerous.  

Hazards can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including physical hazards such as falls, fires, and hazardous chemicals; biological, for example, bacteria or viruses; psychosocial which includes work stress and harassment; ergonomics, and safety, such as the lack of signage or defective machinery. 

An important step in addressing the hazard is identifying it. This way, appropriate preventive and control measures can be evaluated and implemented to reduce or eliminate its negative impact.

Four key aspects to differentiate between risk and danger 

So far, we have detailed the characteristics that distinguish risk and danger. Now, what elements make them different from each other? Below, we share four key aspects that make the difference between risk and danger. Go for it! 

Nature of the phenomenon 

Risk involves the evaluation of the probability and magnitude of an adverse event occurring due to exposure to a hazard. While  

Damage Potential 

Risk assesses the probability of an adverse event occurring and the degree of impact it could have if it occurs. Meanwhile, danger indicates the existence of a threat, without necessarily considering the probability of it materializing. 


In the case of risk, it involves a prospective evaluation of future events based on the probability and potential impact of those events. For its part, danger is a present condition that represents an immediate or potential threat. 

Management approach 

As we have explained, risk management focuses on evaluating the possible consequences of adverse situations to implement control measures to mitigate their impact if they occur. Hazard management focuses on identifying, evaluating and controlling conditions or situations that can cause harm. 

An example of the difference between risk and danger 

Let’s say you are working in a factory and you need to move a heavy load using a forklift. In these cases, you must use appropriate protection. However, you decide to ignore established safety procedures and do not wear your seatbelt while operating the forklift. Here you expose yourself to a risk because there is a possibility that you will fall from the forklift and get injured due to lack of compliance with safety protocols. 

Now, consider that you are working in the same factory and, while operating the forklift without the seat belt, you come across an area of ​​the floor that is weakened and about to give way. In this case, the situation becomes immediately dangerous as there is a real possibility that the floor may fall while you are on the forklift, which could result in a fall from a significant height.  

Do you want to know more about risk and danger management in business contexts? Stay reading the Educa.Pro blog with us! We recommend this article about the Occupational Risk Prevention Law and this other one about the consequences of having, or not, good conditions at work. 

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