Hazards exist in every workplace, but how do you know which ones have the most potential to harm workers? By identifying your workplace safety hazards, you will be better prepared to control or eliminate them and prevent accidents, injuries, property damage and downtime.
Firstly, a key step in any safety protocol is to conduct a thorough hazard assessment of all work environments and equipment. In a hazard assessment, it is important to be as thorough as possible because after all, you can’t protect your workers against hazards you are unaware of. Avoid blindspots in your workplace safety procedures by taking into consideration these six main categories of workplace hazards.
Safety and Hazard Communication Barriers will limit confusion and increase productivity and safety at your job site.
Workplace Safety Hazards:
Safety Hazards are unsafe working conditions that that can cause injury, illness and death. Safety hazards are the most common workplace hazards.
- Anything that can cause spills or tripping such as cords running across the floor or ice
- Anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
- Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch
- Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
- Confined spaces
Biological Hazards include exposure to harm or disease associated with working with animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Workplaces with these kinds of hazards include, but are not limited to, work in schools, day care facilities, colleges and universities, hospitals, laboratories, emergency response, nursing homes, or various outdoor occupations.
Types of things you may be exposed to include:
- Blood and other body fluids
- Bacteria and viruses
- Insect bites
- Animal and bird droppings
Physical hazards can be any factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.
- Radiation: including ionizing, non-ionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radiowaves, etc.)
- High exposure to sunlight / ultraviolet rays
- Temperature extremes – hot and cold
- Constant loud noise
Occur when the type of work, body positions and working conditions put a strain on your body. They are the hardest to spot since you don’t always immediately notice the strain on your body or the harm that these hazards pose. Short-term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following the exposure, but long term exposure can result in serious long-term illness.
Ergonomic Hazards include:
- Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs
- Frequent lifting
- Poor posture
- Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive
- Having to use too much force, especially if you have to do it frequently
Are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid or gas). Some are safer than others, but to some workers who are more sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems.
- Liquids like cleaning products, paints, acids,solvents – ESPECIALLY if chemicals are in an unlabeled container!
- Vapors and fumes that come from welding or exposure to solvents
- Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide and helium
- Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents, and explosive chemicals
Work Organization Hazards:
Hazards or stressors that cause stress (short term effects) and strain (long term effects). These are hazards associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and/or respect, etc.
- Workload demands
- Workplace violence
- Intensity and/or pace
- Respect (or lack thereof)
- Control or say about things
- Social support or relations
- Sexual harassment
Remember that these lists are non-exhaustive. When you are completing a workplace hazard assessment, take into account these six larger categories to think of factors that may affect your workers in their particular circumstances.
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