No matter the type of industry, there are workplace hazards that can kill or seriously injure employees. Being an employer or a safety manager, you need to ensure that a workplace has the best approaches to mitigate hazards within the workplace.
Therefore, this piece of content is a comprehensive guide on different types of workplace hazards, how to identify them, report them, and take necessary preventive control measures to ensure everyone’s safety.
What are Workplace Hazards?
Workplace safety hazards are the sources of potential harm or damage to anyone or anything within the work environment. It could be any material, substance, or activity that has the potential to cause a fatality or a serious injury.
It is seen that 18% of the non-fatal work injuries resulting in days away from work in the year 2020 were related to slips, trips, and falls. 196,140 injuries occurred due to heavy objects and work equipment. It is further seen that 1,030 US workers died as a result of motor vehicle crashes. Nearly 1.8 million employees sustained occupational injuries and were treated in emergency.
This puts a huge responsibility on the employers to prevent the safety and health of their staff and meet safety compliance.
Major types of Workplace Hazards
The major types of workplace hazards are:
- Biological. These types of hazards include viruses, bacteria, animals, or biodegradable substances that have the potential to cause harm. Such as bodily fluids or chemical spills etc.
- Chemical. Chemical hazards include any kind of hazardous substances that may produce harm including skin irritation, respiratory issues, or even cancer.
- Physical. Physical hazards are environmental hazards that can cause harm without even touching an individual. These include height work, workplace noise, radiation, extreme weather, or sun rays.
- Safety. Safety hazards are any type of hazards that create unsafe working conditions for the workers. These include exposed electrical wires, slips, trips, and fall hazards.
- Ergonomic. This hazard type occurs due to physical factors that can cause musculoskeletal injuries, strains, or sprains. Ergonomic hazards occur due to improper workstation settings, poor posture, or manual handling.
- Psychosocial. These types of hazards include those that impact an employee’s emotional and mental well-being. Examples include sexual harassment, workplace violence, and workplace stress.
Common Workplace Safety Hazards
Below are 8 common workplace safety hazards that employers and their staff must be familiar with:
1. Working at height
Working at height is one of the most common causes of fatal workplace injuries and accidents. These injuries account for 14% of all fatalities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers must have adequate control measures to prevent such hazards. Working at height equipment must be maintained and inspected before use. Ladders and other equipment should be stored properly after use. These prevent people and ensure their safety.
Talking about some fatal workplace hazards, electrical hazards are also at the top of the list. These are the hazards that occur without any prior warning as the workers may come into contact with exposed or live wires.
Employers should assess their workplace for any such risk. They must maintain the electrical equipment in good order and when possible, provide electrical safety training to their staff.
3. Poor Housekeeping
Over stacking loads on the racks in a warehouse, clutter blocking fire exits, or emergency exits is a poor housekeeping problem.
Employees should not wait for the cleaning staff or housekeeping crew to come and do the job for them, rather they should take part in maintaining their workplace in good order to reduce accidents as much as they can.
4. Hazardous Substances & Materials
Exposure to hazardous substances and materials can lead to severe fatalities and injuries. Chemicals can be expensive and workers might not know how to use them safely so they do not pose any harm.
Along with this, there are some materials in workplaces like asbestos, or silica dust that can also result in life-long to deadly diseases.
5. Confined Spaces
Confined space work is also one of the prominent workplace hazards employers and their staff must take into consideration. It may present several risks to the workers undertaking confined space activities.
Employers should take the health and safety of their workforce seriously. They must conduct a sufficient risk assessment and have a permit to work for those conducting such work. Other than that, employers must also provide proper confined space training to their staff so that they understand safe working principles and practices.
6. Lock Out/Tag Out
Faulty equipment is also an issue that can cause serious accidents and injuries. For this, proper lockout/tag-out procedures must be followed so that injuries and accidents can be prevented. Employers need to train their employees for lock out/tag out and ensure they are competent to conduct the work safely.
7. Fires & Emergencies
Fire hazards and emergencies can result in multiple fatalities. They can destroy a building in seconds that took years to build and establish. Employers must have an emergency plan in place to deal with any such fire incident and have sufficiently trained and equipped personnel to act proficiently in emergencies.
8. Heavy Loads
Working around cranes and lifting equipment can expose workers to load hazards and fatal injuries. Employees will never work under such suspended loads. As health and safety is the top concern of everyone. Therefore, employers need to thoroughly examine this hazard in their workplaces and implement preventive control measures to avoid the risk.
Health and safety are the essential elements to create a safe and secure workplace. If these key components are missing from work, employees are likely to leave without any doubt. Employers of such staff must prioritize this within their businesses, workplaces, and organizations so workplace safety hazards can be eliminated and workers feel safe.