All workplaces irrespective of their type pose a few threats to the folks working there. Employers are legally obliged to protect the employees but everyone working on the floor has to watch out for the situations that create common workplace hazards. This is to say, everyone’s responsibility to comply with safety issues.
The most important thing about health and safety is not to allow yourself to be exposed to a dangerous situation. Being alert in the first place can help people avoid potentially fatal consequences in the first place. This goal of this article is to enlighten you on common workplace hazards and discuss the course of action to keep yourself safe from sudden occurrences.
Table of Contents
What is a hazard in the workplace?
By hazard, we mean a situation that has the potential to cause harm. So a workplace hazard may refer to anything at work that generates health and safety risks and cause potential damage to the workers.
Exposure to a hazard may cause damage to health, loss of work hour, or even a combination of these. Some hazards may even cause property and environmental damage. So it’s always wise to create awareness among workers even before they occur.
Every workplace has its own set of potential hazards that may occur based on the type of workplace. The dangers of a construction site or a warehouse may not be the same as the hazards in an office. So a thorough risk assessment is necessary to find out the irregularities of a workplace.
Different types of workplace hazard
As we have already mentioned before workplace hazards can vary based on the work environment. A specific work environment may be prone to specific kinds of hazards. Despite different work and work environments, the general potentials risks can all be classified into a few groups. These are discussed as follows:
Anything in the workplace that can cause harm to your body is termed as a physical hazard. Any such type of risk in a place causes that specific location to become unsafe for work. Often physical threats are responsible for injury, illness and even death. So these are the types of hazards that you need to watch out for with great alertness.
Different types of workplace threats have different kinds of risks. The work environments have a lot to do with physical hazards. Say, for example, working with heavy machinery and workstations at high elevations can result in lifelong injuries. So it’s necessary to put the right precautions in the right place. For instance, companies put out specific signs to warn passerby of any impending hazard. This includes introducing warning signs around the hazardous location.
So whenever a physical hazard is spotted, the essential practice should be to eliminate the threat. And if it’s not possible to eliminate the danger, the right precautions should be in place to mitigate them.
The above were the visible forms of physical hazards. But most physical hazards occur from concealed sources that are very hard to spot. Only a proper risk assessment can spot them. Some of these are:
Live exposed electrical parts can result in severe injuries like shocks, burns explosions and even falls from electrocution. The risk becomes even more prominent in wet weather. Live parts in contact with moisture can conduct electricity further from the source. So proper risk assessment of live electrical sources is paramount for maintaining proper electrical safety.
To some extent, all workplaces carry the risk of a fire breakout. But the risk varies based on the work environment. Fire breakouts in a restaurant kitchen or a workplace that uses flammable substances can result in devastating consequences. So fire safety risks assessments are paramount for saving lives and resources.
Exposure to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can result in serious health issues. Health workers, construction workers, emergency response staff, and fishermen need to work outdoors in colder months. Working in icy conditions can result in hypothermia, reduced mental alertness, trench foot and reduced dexterity.
On the other hand, the workplace in the production line, industrial kitchen, welders, and workplaces near furnaces may get exposed to extreme temperatures. Extreme can cause dehydration, exhaustion, and dizziness in the workers, leading to a further fatal occurrence.
Enclosed work environment
The primary hazard surrounding working in confined spaces is flooding, reduced oxygen levels, and harmful gases. These may lead to further consequences such as fires and explosions. Examples of such confined workplaces are mining tunnels, wells, sewage tunnels.
Chemical hazards are simply the occupational hazards caused by exposure to the harmful chemical in the workplace. Individual workplaces involve the use of various substances for operational purposes.
Any risk that is inflicted from the biosphere is known as a biological hazard. The sources of biological hazard in the workplace are :
Workplaces that are more prone to cause such safety hazards are labs, nursing homes, hospitals, emergency response teams and other related ones. But workplaces like daycares, schools, college, universities are also within range of a biohazard.
Recently with the mass breakout of the recent COVID-19 breakout, the risk of biohazard is even more relevant. Workplaces have adopted stricter regulations to save team members and their families from this pandemic.
Safety hazards are responsible for the most usual form of workplace hazards such as slip trips and falls. For some safety hazards may seem to be the same as physical hazards. To some extent they may be the same. But the safety hazards may have elaborate consequences. Such type of risks include:
The most frequently occurring safety hazards in the workplace are:
Loose cables, spilt water and frayed carpets
Getting caught up with your feet in any of the mentioned can cause a slip, trip and fall incident. These types of occurrences can lead to physical injuries and even mentally impact the employee’s productivity.
Sharp and heavy machinery
Heavy machinery used for applying high pressure and sharp objects can cause severe injuries and bring fatal consequences. Sometimes hair, pieces of clothes, and even body parts can get entangled into rotating machinery parts. Getting caught up in such an incident can cause broken bones, loss of limbs and even deaths.
Defective wiring can create short circuits and exposure of live parts to the open environment. These types of situations are highly hazardous as they may cause fires and electric shocks.
Ergonomic hazards are the damage to the musculoskeletal system of our body. These types of issues occur due to the constant strain put into our body for working longer hours. Ergonomic hazards are mainly caused by:
So if the issues mentioned above are not handled well enough, they might cause various short and even long term impacts to an employees health and wellbeing.
The issue of ergonomic hazard is relevant for all types of jobs. From basic nine to five jobs to field jobs needing a lot of physical labour ergonomic problems need sorting out for everyone to ensure good health and bring out full performance.
Steps to face ergonomic hazards are as follows:
Synchronised manual handling
Trained employees should accomplish jobs that involve lifting, pushing, pulling and other forms of application of body force. Knowing the and following the right manual handling technique is a must for conducting safe handling of loads.
Use of vibrating instruments
Use of vibrating instruments such as drills and hammer drills for a more extended period can develop sensory and nerve damage. So proper instructions and techniques are essential for operating such machinery.
Suitable workstation orientation
Most modern jobs require employees to sit out in front of a screen for a prolonged time. Sitting out in the same position for long hours puts a lot of stress on the pelvic region and the back, shoulders and neck. Sometimes this may even cause fatigue and eye strain.
A proper sitting position with appropriate back support and screen position well aligned to the eyes is an absolute must. To work long hours, employees must also take sufficient breaks in between and do a few stretches. Stretching on regular intervals throughout the day ensures proper circulation within the body.
Psychosocial hazards at the workplace can hurt the employee’s mental wellbeing. These types of risks are incidents such as:
Any irregularities mentioned in the sections and the accidents mentioned before can have psychosocial impacts on the employee’s mind. An individual might get concerned about any occurrence happening again.
Workplace harassment and employee aggression
A person is not expected to act normal if he is being intimidated, humiliated or continuously offended regularly. Instead, it will distress him and stop his regular outcomes of work.
Workplace bullying and sexual harassment are two common incidents in the modern workplace. Together these two account for maximum cases of psychological hazards in the workplace. Victims of such incidents are very likely to face stress, anxiety and other mental problems. So managers must keep a keen eye out to reduce bullying and sexual harassment at the workplace.
Identifying hazards and risks in the workplace
As we already know, a hazard is the potential of something or a particular circumstance to cause harm. By harm, we indicate the adverse effects on employee health or the destruction of property and environment. The process used for identifying a hazard is called risk assessment. Companies hire an experienced person to carry out risk assessment tasks. The work by the following way:
The operation is to be carried out regularly before the new process is introduced. Changes to old methods are also necessary to avoid a hazardous situation occurrence of new hazards.
How do you report hazards in the workplace?
All workplaces have hidden dangers that need a response from the authority. For this, the company hires experts to carry out risk assistant audits. But in general, all employees can work as risk assessment supervisors.
Employees can always report to the concerned authority as soon as they spot any irregularities that can lead to more significant incidents. So all employees are in charge of carrying out risk assessment duties whenever they encounter an issue. Companies these days equip all their employees with relevant safety training. As a result, almost all employees gather the required skills to become a risk assessment officer.
How to dispose of hazardous substances in the workplace?
Hazardous wastes can lead to adverse effects on the environment. So the release of harmful elements to the environment has to be regulated. Otherwise, it may become a cause of suffering to the living kingdom.
It’s a legal duty of businesses to consider treatment or recovery procedures before disposing of hazardous substances. Most companies handle a few dangerous substances for their operation. Some common hazardous substances are listed below:
Certain hazardous materials just cannot be disposed of as we like them. There are waste management companies that maintain all government standards while disposing of harmful wastes. Some also want the employee’s liability to make sure their company is complying to the government guidelines and caring for the environment.
Simple steps to handle hazardous wastes are:
The main condition of running a sustainable business is to ensure total employee and environmental wellbeing. There is no better way of ensuring employee health other than enlightening them on safety hazards. By doing so the risks can be mitigated even before they occur.
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