It is imperative to determine the presence of potential health and safety hazards for an effective risk assessment in the workplace. There are numerous forms of hazard, and every job comes with a potential hazard.
For this reason, it is every employer’s and worker’s responsibility to become aware and prepared for potential hazards within the organization to minimize the risk of harm. Employers should also have a nominated person responsible for conducting formal and unbiased risk assessments.
The Top 10 Most Common Workplace Health and Safety Hazards
Workplace hazards to safety and health are not always foreseeable as they can be unique from one type of job to another, making it crucial to be vigilant at all times. The top 10 most common workplace health and safety hazards include the following:
- Transportation accidents
- Communicable diseases
- Injuries such as slipping and falling
- Workplace violence
- Toxic events, such as exposure to harmful chemicals and gas
- Electrocution or explosion
- Getting struck by deleterious objects
- Repetitive motion and ergonomic injuries
- Risk of hearing loss
- Risk of vision impairment
Some of these hazards are less likely to happen in a particular workspace than others; nevertheless, it is of great importance to identify which hazards are most damaging to your business as well as your employees so you can act on them.
While some hazards may cause higher levels of disruption to business continuity more than others, certain hazards may also pose serious threats to employee welfare. Other forms of hazards could also result in the most time lost or be the costliest. All these setbacks require something in common, and it is that thorough preparation and planning can forestall many, if not most, of them.
The 6 Main Categories of Hazards
Having enumerated the most common workplace health and safety hazards, we will also categorize them to help you better understand the differences between them. Knowing the categories of health and safety hazards can be useful in organizing your plans for the prevention and implementation of employment injury protection. The six main categories of hazards are the following:
1. Biological hazards: Viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, insects, and animals all fall under biological hazards. Specifically, biological hazards may include mould, sewage, dust, vermin, harmful plants, blood, and other bodily fluids. These hazards can pose serious health risks to persons exposed to them.
2. Chemical hazards: This is when hazardous chemical substances cause harm to oneself and others. Chemical hazards can result in both physical and health impacts, such as skin irritation, respiratory system irritation, blindness, corrosion, and explosions.
3. Physical hazards: Noise, pressure, radiation, and heights are all examples of physical hazards. These physical hazards are environmental factors that can cause harm to employees in a workplace even without your workers touching them.
4. Interchangeable with physical hazards, these are hazards that create unsafe working conditions due to negligence, recklessness, or malpractice. An example would be exposed wires or a damaged carpet within the office or building, which might result in a tripping hazard.
5. Ergonomic hazards: These result from physical factors that can cause different musculoskeletal injuries. Office workstations that are not properly set up, poor posture, and incorrect manual handling are among the examples of ergonomic hazards.
6. Psychosocial hazards: Sexual harassment, victimization, stress, burnout, and workplace violence are examples of psychosocial hazards. These hazards can harm employees’ mental and emotional health or wellbeing.
Focusing On Prevention
The National Safety Council (NSC) senior consultant JoAnn Dankert advised, “Spending a little bit of money upfront on prevention can save you money on the back end.” The NSC also recommends focusing on the following areas to help identify and, therefore, prevent different workplace hazards:
1. It’s mainly up to employers to appropriately train their employees on safety protocols as workers won’t inherently know how to do something based on company policies or standards. Such training should commence upon official hiring.
At this time, your organization, through HR, has to orient your employees on occupational safety and health. This training must continue under the specific department in which an employee is assigned. A routine refresher training is also mandatory afterwards along with constant monitoring and supervision to evaluate whether employees can apply their learnings appropriately or not.
2. Personal protective equipment. Employers need to select the right variety of choices and sizes for their staff if they determine that PPE is necessary. It’s also the employer’s responsibility to train the workers on how to put on and take off the gear properly. The behaviour expected from employees wearing the required PPE should be modelled by team supervisors.
It is important to report the reason why PPE is not being worn by employees, too, as the gear may be dysfunctional or uncomfortable. All PPE must also be kept in its appropriate container to prevent misuse and neglect. Most importantly, employees should clearly understand that the purpose of wearing PPE is to protect them from injuries.
3. Small and startup businesses often lack the resources to adequately check their systems for safety, and employers may be unaware of what encompasses a safe procedure in many situations. Such employers must reach out to the concerned regulating agencies and access available resources, as many of these are free anyway.
For instance, complimentary inspection programs are offered by several fire insurance companies and workers’ compensation insurance firms. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has a similar program, and employers won’t be penalized if violations are found during a consultation visit.
For all other resources that aren’t free, it’s the responsibility of a good employer to invest in certain training or PPE if they want to keep employees safe.
4. When a manager or supervisor does something in an unsafe manner, some workers may follow suit. Thus, employers should establish a culture in which safety becomes everyone’s priority. Every worker should feel comfortable reporting hazardous processes.
It all starts with leadership. If management is truly committed to the importance of safety through and through, that encourages responsibility among everyone else.
Author: Meghan Roces
Meghan Roces is considered a social butterfly due to her overwhelming energy and charisma, as proven by people who get to meet her. She’s a lifestyle blogger by day and TV geek by night.