5 Common Workplace Hazards

Signage alerting people to biological hazards in the workplace
Signage alerting people to biological hazards in the workplace

A safe work environment is one of the most important factors affecting employee happiness and productivity.

Most of us spend a huge amount of our time in the workplace and laws have been enacted to ensure health and safety risks are minimised as much as possible. It is the employers’ obligation to satisfy the legal requirements.

In this article, we’ll look at effective approaches to managing some of the more common workplace hazards.

1. Ergonomic Hazards

Illustrating correct lifting techniques to deal with ergonomic workplace hazards

Workers who are required to perform repetitive movements, or who tackle heavy-duty tasks without proper assistive devices, are at risk of suffering musculoskeletal injuries. This type of injury commonly afflicts the back, forearms, wrists, hands, neck, and shoulders. Workplace safety strategy:

  • Prevention through awareness and training
  • Invest in ergonomically-designed assistive devices
  • Eliminate or reduce repetitive tasks
  • Rotate tasks so employees get a break from repetitive tasks

2. Safety Hazards

Safety hazards can be anything that could lead to injury, illness, or death. Typically this includes objects or environments that could cause injuries, spills, trips, and falls, such as untidy cables and cords, and machinery that a worker might accidentally sustain injuries from. Working at heights is also considered hazardous. Workplace safety strategy:

  • Conduct a thorough risk assessment — the first step toward finding solutions
  • Keep potentially hazardous equipment accounted for and stored properly when not in use
  • Install guardrails, especially in elevated work areas
  • First aid courses for designated employees

3. Biological hazards

Worker in hazmat suit protected against biological hazards in the workplace
Biological hazards relate to injury or disease that can come from working with animals, people, poisonous plants, or contaminated objects. These types of hazards are commonplace in hospitals, daycare centres, laboratories, and agricultural facilities. Workplace safety strategy:

  • Invest in proper working clothes (PPE)
  • Train and educate staff in appropriate cleanliness and sanitation practices
  • Put procedures in place for isolating sick or contaminated individuals, animals, and objects
  • Implement an effective disease prevention plan
  • Encourage healthy lifestyles and diets for employees
Illustration of workers wearing hazmat protection against chemical hazards in the workplace
Illustration of workers wearing hazmat protection against chemical hazards in the workplace

4. Chemical Hazards

Workers can be exposed to chemical hazards if the workplace deals with the preparation or handling of chemicals. This includes cleaning products, paint, pesticides, gases such as carbon monoxide and helium, flammable items such as fuels, oils, and welding fumes.

Workplace safety strategy:

  • Invest in protective clothing, including gas masks if needed
  • Educate workers on the effects of hazardous chemicals
  • Have equipment regularly maintained
  • Put up signs or labels for dangerous substances or work areas
Work Organisational Hazards illustration showing compassion leads to success
Work Organisational Hazards illustration showing compassion leads to success"

5. Work Organisation Hazards

A work organisation hazard is a workplace environment that causes stress. This can include unfair workloads, poor employee relationships, sexual harassment, violence, lack of work flexibility, lack of respect in the workplace, and employees feeling like they have no control or say about work-related matters. Workplace safety strategy:

  • Encourage open communication between managers and workers
  • Provide a discreet way for employees to report problems in the workplace
  • Practise workplace equality
  • Hold meetings that highlight the importance of respect and accountability
  • Make sure all personnel understand the consequences of physical abuse and sexual harassment
  • Improve office relationships through team-building retreats or activities
  • Ensure that employees know and feel that their opinions matter
  • Maintain a fair policy for employee promotion

Focus on Prevention

Reducing or eliminating workplace hazards might sound like a costly exercise for a business owner, but it is, without doubt, a worthwhile investment. In fact, many workplaces now employ industrial hygienists, professionals who assess and control hazards in the workplace and public space that could cause injury or illness.

Absenteeism is reduced when there are fewer hazards, work-related illnesses, injuries, and stresses.

Litigation also becomes an expensive probability when workplace hazards are ignored.

Employees are the lifeblood of any business. And healthy, safe employees are happier, more focused and more productive.

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