HSE Terms & Definitions

Safety First

Competent Worker

An adequately qualified, suitably trained worker with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision.

Critical Job

A job with high potential for serious loss or injury.


A condition or behaviour that has the potential to cause personal harm or property damage. Categories of hazards are:

  • Physical – Slipping; tripping; struck by or against; falling; pinch points; caught in, under or between; repetitive strain injuries from poor ergonomics; lifting; heat; cold; noise; vibration; ionizing radiation (x-rays, gamma rays, beta particles, etc.); or non-ionizing radiation (microwaves, radio waves, infra-red, lasers, ultra-violet, etc.)
  • Chemical – Toxins or agents that have acute or chronic health effects and can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed by the body (dusts, mists, fumes, vapors, etc.)
  • Biological – Viruses, fungi, bacteria, molds, contaminated body fluids, sewage, etc.
  • Psychological – Work-related stress, anxiety, depression, behavioural health problems, etc.
Hazard Controls

Once hazards have been identified and their risk analyzed, controls are implemented to protect workers from injury and illness.

  • Engineering controls are the best control measure because they can eliminate or reduce exposure to the hazard by modifying the equipment, chemical, or process. They consist of substitution, guarding, isolation, and ventilation. Some examples include installing guards on equipment to prevent accidental contact with moving parts, using latex paint instead of oil base, isolating a noisy piece of equipment by enclosing it, local exhaust ventilation for welding, installing alarms and monitoring equipment, etc.
  • Administrative controls are process or procedure focused. They include safe work procedures, codes of practice, rules, training, staff rotation, etc. Safe work procedures establish a standard of performance for high-risk jobs so that they can be carried out with minimum potential for injury or loss. Some examples of high risk jobs include the handling of carcinogens, operating chain saws, entering confined spaces, dealing with potentially hostile environments, using compressed gases, and encountering animals.
Health Hazard

A physical, chemical, biological or psychological hazard for which there is scientifically valid evidence that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees.


An undesired event that results in personal harm (injury/illness) or personal property damage (eye glasses, dentures, etc.).


Persons engaged in the administration of the organization’s programs, operations, functions, etc. Includes managers and supervisors.


A person who has charge of a workplace or authority over supervisors and workers.

Near Miss

An undesired event that under slightly different circumstances could have resulted in personal harm or personal property damage.


Documentation including forms, checklists, reports, memos, etc. that create a history of events/activities and that are useful in the operation and maintenance of a program, system, etc.


One’s duty to do what is assigned, expected and understood.


The probability (likelihood) of an incident occurring and the potential severity (consequences) of the resulting personal harm or personal property damage.

Root Cause

The underlying or basic factors which contribute to the direct cause of an incident.

Safe Operating Procedure

A written, step-by-step description of how to perform a critical job from beginning to end.

Safe Work Practice

A written set of guidelines which establish a standard of performance for an activity or work process.

Safety Hazard

A physical or chemical hazard that may result in property damage or injury to exposed employees.


A person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker, such as a front-line supervisor, shift supervisor, foreman, etc.


A group of interrelated items, individuals, policies, procedures, records, etc. that achieve desired results.


A person present at a work site. This could include a member of the public or a person carrying out the duties of his/her own employer (e.g. salespersons, suppliers, etc.).


An employee supervised by a manager or supervisor.

Work Inventory

A comprehensive list of jobs/tasks produced from a systematic review of all types of work carried out in a work site.