Jargon is seldom used in the world of health and safety. Which makes sense given its implications on all of us. Common terminology keeps instructions clear, concise and easy to understand. In general, the use of industry specific terminology is kept minimal.

Meanings and distinctions

Here are the key terms that are widely used in health and safety:

Health

Health is defined as a state of well-being. Both in a physiological and psychological sense. In relation to work, health indicates the absence of disease or physical and mental weakness. Including the mental and physical effects directly related to safety and hygiene.

Safety

Safety is defined as the absence of danger that could cause physical harm. The term is not only used in relation to people but also materials, machinery, equipment and structures.

Welfare

In the workplace, welfare relates to the facilities that are providing the basic essentials for the worker. Such as washing, eating, toilets, first aid facilities etc.

In the UK, the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations of 1992, include the welfare requirements for places of work. The HSE Approved Code of Practice is available here.

Hazard

Something with the potential to cause harm.

Hazards may pose an immediate danger, whereas others may not result in actual harm for a long period of time.

Risk

A combination of the likelihood of a hazardous event causing harm, and the likely severity of the consequences.

Incident

An unplanned event which causes (or had the potential to cause) injury, ill-health or property damage.

The are sub-categories of incidents, these include:

Accident

An unplanned event which caused injury, ill-health or property damage.

Near miss

An incident that could have caused injury, ill-health or property damage.

A near miss is often a narrowly avoided accident. Therefore establishing a system for reporting, acting upon and reviewing near misses is a critical part of avoiding actual accidents.