Most Common Workplace Safety Hazards
Workplace hazards are anything that poses potential harm to people at work, and that could readily cause damage to the work environment and everything else in it. While for some sectors the term “hazard” could mean different things, in the place of work, it is anything that is dangerous or risky, be it a setting, a situation or an action among the workers. Hazards could cause adverse health effects and losses of property and equipment for organizations.
There is a common way to classify hazards, and not all these are present in all workplaces. In some industries like manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, there are biological and chemical risks that pose risks to the workers. Physical dangers are present as well in many industries where there’s exposure to electricity, radiation, extreme pressures and noises and magnetic fields. On the other hand, ergonomic hazards are present in facilities where there are repetitive movements and where workstations are set up haphazardly. Some workplaces also experience psycho-social hazards like mental institutions, prisons and correctional facilities. But it can be generalized that in all these classifications, there are always safety hazards that come up along with the highlighted workplace dangers. These top hazards we are talking about are the core of this article, and below, we explain each of them.
For many, physical hazard is a generic term and is the most common. It could mean risks arising from the physical work environment – floors, facilities, walls, ceilings, etc. Physical hazards could also mean working with vehicles, machinery and electricity-operated machines. Work processes or specific assignments could also qualify as areas where physical hazards are present. For example, there are engineers, chemists, forklift drivers, food servers, electricians, machine operators, stock men and even supervisors who will be exposed to the risks brought about by their job. We can say that there is a vast list of physical hazards across all industries, but when we look at one specific sector, these dangers are also particular to the work setting.
Falling off heights, slipping and tripping
Accidents and injuries from falling off elevated spots account for around 14% of deaths in the workplace, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA). In 2014 alone, 359 deaths were recorded in the field of construction. The reasons for falling are attributed to faulty scaffolding and ladders, as a result of contact with electricity, and slipping or crashing into anything that throws the worker off balance. On the other hand, trips and slips happen right on lower levels, particularly the floor, on ramps and any uneven surface in the workplace. Various injuries result from simply tripping over things at work, while many more accidents take place when employees slip on the floor, from motorized vehicles or from scaffolding or ladders.
There are many reasons why workers get electrocuted or suffer from electric shock at work. For the most part, it’s due to coming in direct contact with live wires, or having indirect contact through a conductor. It is reported by OSHA that there were over 70 fatalities due to electrocutions at work. While not all electrical accidents lead to death, there are many life-threating, severe and often permanent injuries that could result from it. At work, the common causes of electrical accidents are exposed, worn-out wiring, overloading of electrical outlets, ungrounded or faulty equipment, and unsafe use of electrical equipment.
Each establishment must comply with housekeeping standards to ensure fire safety. Sadly, not everyone follows such requirements, and this leads to accidents resulting to fire. Such events not only mean damage of vital workplace equipment, stock and other items, and the building; it could also lead to injuries among its employees. To avoid fire, it is very important that safety precautions are in place. The whole organization must also have first response and emergency mitigation systems in place.
Chemical and biological hazards
Exposure to activities involving chemical preparations and biological risks are very, very threatening. The dangers are real, especially for those working in manufacturing industries where toxic chemicals are used to produce their goods. These hazardous substances are also present in production of many other things, even if we don’t see them in the end products. For example, kitchenware and other home essentials. In much more common situations, chemical hazards are present in the workplace because they are used to clean products, equipment and facilities. There are also hazards in substances that emit harmful fumes and vapors that could lead to health issues among the employees. On the other hand, biological hazards are confined mostly to the workplace where there are living organisms. There are certain bacteria, viruses and other biological agents that could be transmitted to humans. Through physical contact, these biological hazards could bring diseases in varying degrees.
When we talk of health, we talk about the physical well-being of the workers, and this includes the condition of their skin, eyes, ears and all other body parts. But it also includes the health situation of what we cannot see upfront – their respiratory and cardiovascular system, the nervous system, etc. Hazards are present in most workplaces that could impact any part of the human body. For example, a noisy machine or factory environment could damage the sense of hearing of the workers. In the same manner, exposure to bright lights and toxic fumes and vapor could damage the eyes and nose. There are also more serious and long-term health issues arising from hazardous workplaces, such as damage to the lungs because of the exposure to harmful chemicals.
We can surmise from here just how dangerous a workplace is, and it’s like the whole environment renders a lot of potential for accidents, health problems and safety concerns. However, there are already government standards in place that should be followed by all industries to ensure health and safety in the workplace.
Avoiding these adverse situations is also the responsibility of the company owner and its management. First, there should be clear-cut policies implemented to prioritize the well-being of the employees. The whole workplace must be compliant with all the set standards and requirements of health and safety. Since we know that achieving zero accidents is nearly impossible, there must also be provisions for emergency responses in such cases. There should be periodic assessment of the risks and damages as well. As for the employees, they must be provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and continuously educated about the workplace hazards. The whole workforce must also be updated about any reforms, alterations and issues that are noted in the workplace as their high level of awareness can help keep them safe.