Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2-27-2022


In occupational safety and health (OSH), the process of assessing risks of identified hazards considers both the (i) foreseeable events and exposures that can cause harm and (ii) the likelihood or probability of occurrence. To account for both, a table format known as a risk assessment matrix uses rows and columns for ordered categories of the foreseeable severity of harm and likelihood/ probability of that occurrence. The cells within the table indicate level of risk. Each category has a text description separate from the matrix as well as a word or phrase heading each row and column. Ideally, these header terms will help the risk assessment team distinguish among the categories. A previous project provided recommended sets of header terms for common matrices based on findings from a survey of undergraduate OSH students. This paper provides background on risk assessment matrices, discusses usability issues, and presents findings from a survey of people with OSH-related experience. The aim of the survey was to confirm or improve the prior recommended sets of terms. The prior recommendations for severity, likelihood, and extent of exposure were confirmed with minor modifications. Improvements in the probability terms were recommended.