Under the right circumstances, virtually anything could become hazardous in the workplace. But, sensible behavior and workplace conditions can improve safety.
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
- Never leave machinery unattended while in use
- Practice safety while working from heights
- Mandate the use of safety gear 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 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:
2. Biological Hazards
Types of things you may be exposed to
- Blood and other body fluids
- Bacteria and viruses
- Insect bites
- Animal and bird droppings
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 risks, establish a biohazardous waste protocol that complies with regulations. 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.
3. Physical Hazards
Physical Hazards include:
- Radiation: including ionizing, nonionizing
(EMF’s, microwaves, radiowaves, etc.)
- High exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet
- Temperature extremes – hot and cold
- Constant loud noise
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.
Double 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.
4. Ergonomic Hazards
Ergonomic Hazards include:
- Improperly adjusted workstations and
- Frequent lifting
- Poor posture
- Awkward or repetitive movements
- Excessive force
Like physical hazards, ergonomic hazards 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.
5. Chemical & Dust Hazards
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 label all chemicals, ensuring chemical resistance, and providing resistant safety gear.
- Liquids like cleaning products, paints,
- 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.
Justin Hines is an author at Harmony Supply Blog. With over a decade of experience working with cleanrooms, controlled environments, and industrial manufacturers, Justin Hines provides content to Harmony Lab & Safety Supplies.