What exactly is meant by the word "risk"? The word is certainly used frequently in everyday conversation and seems to be well understood by those using it.
To most people, risk implies some form of uncertainty about an outcome in a given situation. An event might occur and, if it does, the outcome is not favourable to us; it is not an outcome we look forward to. The word "risk" implies both doubt about the future, and the fact that the outcome could leave us in a worse position than we are in at the moment.
Writers, particularly in America, have produced a number of definitions of "risk".
Risk is the possibility of an unfortunate occurrence.
Risk is a combination of hazards.
Risk is unpredictability — the tendency that actual results may differ from predicted results.
Risk is uncertainty of loss.
Risk is the possibility of loss.
Looking at the definitions there does seem to emerge some kind of common-thread running through each of them. Firstly, there is an underlying idea of uncertainty, what we have referred to as doubt about the future. Secondly, there is the implication that there are different levels or degrees of risk. Thirdly, there is the idea of a result having been brought about by one cause or causes.
If a child is playing in the middle of a busy road; if a workman is using a machine while he is unaware, that it is faulty and dangerous; if the pedestrians are unaware that a wall running alongside a pavement is a dangerous condition and about to collapse, what will happen to them? There is an element of risk and uncertainty in each of these situations. The child may escape free of injury, the machine may hold out until the workman has finished using it and the wall may not collapse and injure passersby. Alternatively, there could be serious injury in each case. Uncertainty can exist in the abstract, it is not dependent on being recognized as existing by those who may be most directly involved. Uncertainty is linked more to the event itself, rather than to any personal perception of the existence of uncertainty.