The ladder of risk — COVID-19 edition

Figure 1: Illustration of COVID-19 viruses (source: Harvard University)
  • If you get infected with the COVID-19 virus, there is a chance that you can get seriously ill and possibly die.
  • You can only get infected by the virus from another infected person.
  • Unless you live alone, never go out, and stay away from people, you can get infected.
  1. The hazard,
  2. The bad outcome from that hazard, and
  3. The probability or likelihood of that bad outcome.
  1. Falling (the hazard)
  2. Getting seriously injured or killed (the bad outcome)
  3. How high up you go (increases the likelihood of injury or death)
  1. Getting infected (the hazard)
  2. Getting seriously ill or dying (the bad outcome)
  3. Not taking actions to avoid the virus (increases the likelihood of sickness and death)
  • Staying away from people or crowds of any size (social distancing),
  • Washing your hands with soap,
  • Using hand sanitizer,
  • Wearing a mask,
  • Wearing gloves,
  • Avoiding unnecessary trips outside your home,
  • Avoiding situations where people around you are not wearing a mask, washing their hands, or practicing social distancing, or
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are able to do so.
Figure 2: Different ladders, different risks (sources: Home Depot and Pixabay)
Figure 3: Risk advice from the Trump Administration



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Todd Curtis (airsafe)

Todd Curtis (airsafe)

Former USAF and Boeing engineer and creator of aviation safety and security site