Under the right circumstances, virtually anything could become hazardous in the workplace. With sensible employee behavior and workplace conditions, however, the workplace hazards that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warn against fall into just five main categories. We’ll review them below, and provide suggestions for mitigating dangers for each.
#1: Safety Hazards
(slips, trips and falls, faulty
Safety risks refer to the conditions or substances found in the work environment which can pose danger of injuries. From falling objects to wet floors, these seemingly innocuous everyday risks have the potential to cause serious bodily harm. To minimize these hazards, there are a few things you can do:
- Never leave machinery unattended while in use
- Practice safety while working from heights
- Mandate the use of safety gear and safety apparel, like hardhats, and safety glasses
- Have your electrical wiring inspected regularly
- Provide the proper signage (like wet floor signs) to notify employees of spills, and clean them up promptly
Safety Hazards include:
- Spills on floors or tripping hazards,
such as blocked aisles or cords
running across the floor
- Working from heights, including
ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any
raised work area
- Unguarded machinery and moving
machinery parts; guards removed or
moving parts that a worker can
- Electrical hazards like frayed cords,
missing ground pins, improper
- Confined spaces
- Machinery-related hazards
(lockout/tagout, boiler safety,
#2: Biological Hazards
communicable diseases, etc.)
These types of hazards tend to be exclusive to specific work environments. Particularly, anyone who works with infectious plants, people, or animals may be regularly exposed to biological hazards. Examples of occupations could include laboratory workers, daycare assistants, and personnel in hospitals, doctor’s offices, or nursing homes.
Coming into contact with substances like blood and other bodily fluids, animal droppings, bacteria and viruses, or fungi can put an individual at risk of becoming ill. To minimize these risks, it’s essential that you establish a protocol for handling biohazards and potentially infectious material. Additionally, make sure necessary supplies like disposable gloves are easily accessible. Sorbents can be used to clean up bio-hazards. These powerful granules absorb the liquid, making them easy to clean-up.
Types of things you may be exposed to
- Blood and other body fluids
- Bacteria and viruses
- Insect bites
- Animal and bird droppings
#3: Physical Hazards
(noise, temperature extremes,
Physical hazards are environmental factors which can cause injury without direct contact. For instance, radiation, temperature extremes, consistent loudness, and prolonged exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet rays all fall into this category. These are commonly considered the most difficult to detect, because signs don’t always present themselves right away.Like the other hazards listed here, reducing your employees’ risk of being exposed to physical hazards comes down to providing protection.
Hearing protection, for instance, should be considered mandatory for any individuals working around loud machinery. In settings where MEFs and microwaves are routinely emitted, employers must develop practices their teams can follow to limit exposure.
Physical Hazards include:
- Radiation: including ionizing, nonionizing
- High exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet
- Temperature extremes – hot and cold
- Constant loud noise
#4: Ergonomic Hazards
(repetition, lifting, awkward
Like physical hazards, ergonomic hazards may develop over time. Back strain and similar musculoskeletal disorders are often attributed to repetitive workplace motions. Even individuals who work desk jobs aren’t immune to suffering from back pain.
To combat ergonomic hazards, employers can offer training from specialists to help employees understand the importance of proper lifting techniques and posture. More and more employers are also exploring standing desk options to prevent associates from experiencing health complications associated with prolonged sitting.
Ergonomic Hazards include:
- Improperly adjusted workstations and
- Frequent lifting
- Poor posture
- Awkward movements, especially if
they are repetitive
- Repeating the same movements over
- Having to use too much force,
especially if you have to do it
#5: Chemical/Dust Hazards
(cleaning products, pesticides,
Some chemicals are naturally more potent than others. While certain types are only dangerous when ingested or a person comes into direct contact with them, others are dangerous when simply inhaled. If your workforce uses chemicals regularly, you can keep employees safe by:
- Clearly labeling all chemicals
- Developing a protocol for handling chemicals
- Providing employees with the proper safety gear (respirators and gloves, for instance) to wear while in the presence of chemicals
- Liquids like cleaning products, paints,
acids, solvents – ESPECIALLY if
chemicals are in an unlabeled
- 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.
No matter which types of hazards your workplace has, Harmony has all of the safety gear and products your team needs to stay healthy and injury-free. Browse through their supplies online now, or contact a product specialist to learn more.