Safety is an important component of creating a positive and healthy workplace. Businesses and professionals can help improve workplace safety by learning more about potential risk hazards. Understanding the various safety hazards that employees may encounter can help you design a safety plan and prevent accidents in the workplace.
In this article, we will explore six types of safety hazards recognized by the federal Occupation Safety and Health Association (OSHA) to help you create a safer work environment. We will also test your knowledge by asking you which of these is not related to safety concerns.
1. Work Safety Hazards
Work safety hazards are the most common risks in a workplace or work environment. They also can be specific to certain roles. For example, a construction professional may work with specialized machinery, creating unique safety concerns for that role.
Types of work safety hazards include:
– Spills: Spills can occur in any workplace so it’s important to create a plan to prevent falls after a spill. To decrease the likelihood of a spill hazard, you can put out a caution sign to alert others so they should avoid the area.
– Obstacles: Tripping hazards occur when obstacles are in your path. They include blocked aisles, cords on the floor or poor equipment placement. To decrease the likelihood of a spill hazard, your company can create floor layouts and protocols to place objects where they pose the least threat of obstruction.
– Machinery: Machinery hazards occur when workers operate or maintain equipment that can cause injury or damage. To decrease the likelihood of a machinery hazard, your company can provide proper training, maintenance and protective gear for workers who use machinery.
– Noise: Noise hazards occur when workers are exposed to loud or continuous sounds that can damage their hearing or cause stress. To decrease the likelihood of a noise hazard, your company can provide ear protection, limit exposure time and reduce noise levels.
2. Chemical Hazards
Chemical hazards occur when a professional is exposed to chemicals in either solid, liquid or gas form that can cause harm to their health or the environment. Chemical hazards can include:
– Flammable materials: Flammable materials can ignite easily and cause fires or explosions. To decrease the likelihood of a flammable material hazard, your company can store and handle them properly, use fire extinguishers and follow emergency procedures.
– Toxic substances: Toxic substances can cause poisoning, irritation, allergic reactions or cancer. To decrease the likelihood of a toxic substance hazard, your company can label and dispose of them safely, use personal protective equipment and follow safety data sheets.
– Corrosive materials: Corrosive materials can damage skin, eyes, metal or other materials. To decrease the likelihood of a corrosive material hazard, your company can use gloves, goggles and aprons, store and handle them carefully and neutralize spills.
3. Physical Hazards
Physical hazards are environmental factors that can harm workers or damage equipment. Physical hazards can include:
– Temperature: Temperature hazards occur when workers are exposed to extreme hot or cold conditions that can cause heat stress, dehydration, frostbite or hypothermia. To decrease the likelihood of a temperature hazard, your company can provide adequate ventilation, hydration, clothing and breaks.
– Radiation: Radiation hazards occur when workers are exposed to electromagnetic waves or particles that can damage cells or tissues. To decrease the likelihood of a radiation hazard, your company can limit exposure time, distance and shielding, use dosimeters and follow regulations.
– Electricity: Electricity hazards occur when workers come into contact with live wires, outlets or equipment that can cause shocks, burns or electrocution. To decrease the likelihood of an electricity hazard, your company can inspect and maintain electrical systems, use ground-fault circuit interrupters and avoid water sources.
4. Biological Hazards
Biological hazards are living organisms or substances that can cause infections, diseases or allergies. Biological hazards can include:
– Viruses: Viruses are microscopic agents that can infect cells and cause illnesses such as COVID-19, influenza or hepatitis. To decrease the likelihood of a virus hazard, your company can implement hygiene practices, vaccination programs and isolation protocols.
– Bacteria: Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can multiply rapidly and cause infections such as food poisoning, tuberculosis or meningitis. To decrease the likelihood of a bacteria hazard, your company can sanitize surfaces, equipment and food items, use antibiotics and follow medical advice.
– Fungi: Fungi are multicellular organisms that can grow on organic matter and release spores that can cause allergies, asthma or infections such as ringworm or athlete’s foot. To decrease the likelihood of a fungus hazard, your company can control humidity levels, remove moldy materials and use antifungal medications.
5. Ergonomic Hazards
Ergonomic hazards are physical factors that affect the human body’s posture, movement and comfort. Ergonomic hazards can include:
– Repetitive motions: Repetitive motions are actions that are performed repeatedly and can cause strain, fatigue or injury to muscles, tendons or nerves. To decrease the likelihood of a repetitive motion hazard, your company can vary tasks, use ergonomic tools and equipment and encourage stretching and resting.
– Poor lighting: Poor lighting is a condition where the level or quality of light is insufficient or inappropriate for the task or environment. Poor lighting can cause eye strain, headaches or accidents. To decrease the likelihood of a poor lighting hazard, your company can adjust brightness, contrast and color, use natural light and avoid glare and shadows.
– Improper lifting: Improper lifting is a technique where the worker uses excessive force, awkward posture or incorrect equipment to lift or move objects. Improper lifting can cause back pain, sprains or hernias. To decrease the likelihood of an improper lifting hazard, your company can train workers on proper lifting methods, use mechanical aids and reduce load weight and size.
6. Psychological Hazards
Psychological hazards are mental or emotional factors that affect the well-being and performance of workers. Psychological hazards can include:
– Stress: Stress is a state of mental or emotional tension that results from demanding or challenging situations. Stress can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia or burnout. To decrease the likelihood of a stress hazard, your company can provide support, feedback and recognition, balance workload and deadlines and promote work-life balance.
– Violence: Violence is any act of physical, verbal or emotional aggression that causes harm or intimidation to workers. Violence can cause fear, anger, trauma or injury. To decrease the likelihood of a violence hazard, your company can implement policies, procedures and training to prevent and respond to violence, provide security measures and counseling services and foster a respectful culture.
– Harassment: Harassment is any unwelcome conduct that creates a hostile, offensive or intimidating work environment. Harassment can be based on race, gender, age, religion, disability or other protected characteristics. Harassment can cause humiliation, resentment, isolation or discrimination. To decrease the likelihood of a harassment hazard, your company can establish codes of conduct, reporting and investigation systems and anti-harassment training and education.
Which of These Is Not Related to Safety Concerns?
Now that you have learned about the six types of safety hazards in the workplace, can you identify which of these is not related to safety concerns?
– A) A worker spills coffee on the floor and does not clean it up.
– B) A worker uses a ladder that is too short to reach a high shelf.
– C) A worker listens to music on headphones while operating a forklift.
– D) A worker takes a break to read a book.
The correct answer is D) A worker takes a break to read a book. This is not related to safety concerns because it does not pose any risk of harm to the worker or others. Taking breaks can actually improve safety by reducing stress and fatigue.
The other options are related to safety concerns because they can cause accidents or injuries due to spills (A), falls (B) or distractions (C).
Safety concerns in the workplace are valid and varied. By learning about the different types of safety hazards and how to prevent them, you can create a safer work environment for yourself and others.