SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

Difference Between Threat and Hazard in Safety Management

Posted by Tyler Britton on Nov 30, 2022 4:23:00 AM

What Is a Hazard

Difference Between Threat and Hazard

A hazard in safety management is a condition that poses danger to your organization, and can lead to an accident, incident, or another mishap if not mitigates.

A hazard satisfies ALL of the following conditions:

  • Is a dangerous condition, such as an object, situation, circumstance, that poses an unacceptable level of danger;
  • Occurs once in the safety mishap lifecycle;
  • Can lead directly to risk occurrence (i.e., safety mishap, accident, etc.) if not mitigated; and
  • Arise from hazard mechanisms, such as initiating actions and hazardous sources.

Though it is sometimes confused as other things, such as below, a hazard is NOT:

  • Benign objects (birds, mountains, people), which are hazardous sources;
  • Safety mishaps, which are another way of saying risk occurrences;
  • Damages, which are a product of risk occurrence; and
  • Dangerous actions, which are associated with initiating mechanisms.

The only disagreement may be on what constitutes a “dangerous” situation. We advise you to seek guidance from your compliance authority on this point.

Two Types of Threats

Two types of threats are used differently in different contexts. They are:

  • General threats: the amount of danger in a given circumstance; and
  • Specific threats: a specific object, situation, behavior, etc., that corresponds to a rising level of danger within a given context.

What Is a General Threat

One type of threat is a general threat, which refers to the amount of danger in a given circumstance. It is used in the context of “threat level,” such as:

  • “There is no inherent threat in operations right now”; or
  • “Given our current ERP, how much threat does a fire emergency pose?”; or
  • “Terrorism is a [specific] threat that poses a great [general] threat to aviation.”

What Is a Specific Threat

A threat can also be a generic term for a specific danger, such as an object, situation, behavior, etc. A specific danger can be identified as:

  • Contributing to rising danger – such as a hazardous source or contributing factor; or
  • Representing actualized danger – such as a hazard occurrence.

Some examples are:

  • “In springtime, migrating birds are a threat we have to mitigate”;
  • “That moose is no threat because he cannot get over the perimeter fence”; or
  • “We have no plan for a bomb threat in our ERP.”

Difference Between Hazard and Threat

Sometimes, hazard and threat might be used interchangeably. Consider the example of a flock of birds flying close to an aircraft. This flock is both a hazard and a threat.

However, because the concept of a threat is vaguer than the concept of a hazard, a threat is not always a hazard. Consider the example of:

  • migrating birds, which are a hazardous source but not an actual hazard, or
  • fatigue, which is a contributing factor.

Related Aviation Hazard and Threat Articles

The takeaway here is that a hazard occurs (is “actualized”) when your operations interact with hazard sources. A threat is simply a generic way to describe danger, whether the danger has been actualized or not.

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Last updated December 2023.

Topics: 2-Safety Risk Management

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.



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