It’s no surprise that workplace hazards severely impact employees on numerous levels. Not only do hazards drain out company productivity but they also affect the culture. In certain scenarios, companies having issues with hazards also end up getting bad publicity coverage.
To make employers aware of certain workplace hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) categorizes them into five major categories: Safety, Chemical, Biological, Physical and Ergonomic Hazards.
As per the Occupational Safety Health Act’s General Duty Clause, it’s your legal responsibility to remove such hazards and make your workplace hazard-free.
Let’s get a better understanding of these five hazards and learn how to mitigate them for better employee safety.
Safety Hazards are those that include any type of substance, object, or condition in a workplace that can potentially harm employees. They are usually found in industries like Oil & Gas, Mining, and Construction but can also occur in other industries.
In typical facilities, Safety Hazards include floor spills, unprotected machinery or moving machine parts, tripping hazards, hazards occurring due to raised work area or heights (for. e.g falls from ladders or roofs), blocked walkways due to boxes or chords, and many more.
Though such safety hazards might seem like everyday risks, they cause serious harm to employees.
Safety Hazards can be minimized by following safety practices like using safety gear when operating from heights, never leaving machinery unattended when in use, and providing proper signage in case of spills.
If your workplace is present with tenacious safety hazards then getting regular safety training for employees is a must.
Chemical or Dust Hazards are caused when employees come in direct contact with harmful chemicals at a worksite. When chemicals aren’t properly handled or used, they cause injury to employees in the form of illness, fire or explosions.
Chemical hazards occur from liquids such as cleaning products, paints, acids, through vapor and fumes like carbon monoxide, welding fumes, solvent gases, gasoline, and even pesticides.
The major mode of transmission for chemical hazards is through inhalation, ingestion, or direct skin contact with potent chemicals.
If your workplace deals with chemicals on a daily basis you can protect employee’s health by providing them with safety gear, encouraging best practices and protocols for handling chemicals, and by appropriately labeling dangerous chemicals.
Employees can get exposed to biohazards through fungi, viruses, and even animal droppings if they come in contact with infected animals and even people. Such biohazards are exclusive to particular work environments and can include anything from fungi/mold to insect bites, bacteria, and even blood or other bodily fluids.
Generally, people working in laboratories, daycare centers, hospitals, or nursing homes are more prone to such hazards if the workplace isn’t properly protected from infected animals, people, or plants.
By maintaining hygiene standards and setting up essential protocols for handling infectious materials, biohazards can be effectively minimized in the workplace.
Make sure there is ample availability of vital supplies such as disposable gloves, sorbents, N95 dust mask respirators, and other PPE equipment for employees to clean up biohazards.
Physical hazards are those that affect your employees’ physical safety. They are capable of injuring employees with or without direct contact and are generally difficult to detect.
Physical hazards include anything from radiation (microwaves, radio waves, ultraviolet rays) to extreme hot or cold temperatures and loud noises. They are predominant in industries like Oil & Gas, Mining, and Construction.
Conditions arising from physical hazards have the potential to cause serious illness which, in extreme cases, also sometimes leads to death. Hence, it’s crucial to protect employees from being exposed to physical hazards.
You must ensure that the right equipment and training are provided to workers. For example, high-temperature protection apparel or HAZMAT suits must be given to workers if they are working in radiation prone areas.
Ergonomic hazards typically occur when repetitive work or bodily postures strain the body. They include strains from lifting, pulling or pushing objects, body aches due to uncomfortable sitting postures, slips and falls during work, exposure to heavy vibrations, etc.
Similar to physical hazards, ergonomic hazards are also difficult to detect. Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSD cases account for 33% of all injury and illness cases in workers.
To prevent ergonomic hazards, you must make sure that workers are equipped with the ideal tools so that they can do their jobs well, and you must also promote fitness practices at the workplace.
No matter what workplace employees work in, hazards are always a major concern. Being aware of different hazards helps you take crucial steps beforehand and prevent catastrophic disasters at the workplace.
Make sure you keep in mind these five major workplace hazards and take preventive steps to keep employees out of danger.