Identifying Hazards in the Workplace (and how to reduce their risks)

Since the workplace serves as a second home to workers, this should be a place of safety and convenience. Employees should feel comfortable while they are performing their tasks. That is why every business owner must ensure that office environments are low in risks and possible hazards are manageable. They should not neglect the safety and health of their workers.

Often, despite some safety precautions, workplaces are still prone to hazards that need to be monitored and controlled cautiously. In all offices and workstations, hazards must be identified and evaluated for correct precautions. There should be measures to be implemented, so risks or dangers will be reduced or avoided.

Workplace Hazards Defined

Simply defined, workplace hazards are any risks that pose potential harm to the safety and health of people in the office environment. Depending on the type of industry or kind of work, hazards also vary in degree and risks. However, no matter how risky they are, what matters is how management will be able to create measures to ensure the safety of its employees.

Both employers and employees need to have the proper knowledge on how to prevent injuries and accidents in the workplace. They should be both responsible for knowing how to be safe and work conveniently in their workstations. By being well-rounded on the different kinds of hazards in the office environment, you will have the ability to take the correct steps and make the workplace a safe area to perform tasks and accomplish goals.


Major Types of Workplace Hazards Everyone Should Know

Generally, there are six most common workplace hazards which can cause harm and accidents. Others can lead to injuries, illnesses, and even worse cases. The following are the six most common hazards in the workplace:


#1 Physical Hazards. Physical hazards refer to some environmental factors that can be dangerous to a person. Employees should not be close or touch physical hazards so as not to be harmed by them. Sometimes, there are office vicinities that are already exposed to physical hazards. The following are included in these types of hazards:

- Extreme temperatures (too hot or too cold can cause uncomfortable feelings to employees)

- High exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun (this can cause skin diseases or cancers)

- Radiation coming from equipment such as microwaves, X-rays, and others.

- Too much noise that is continuously experienced in the workplace


#2 Safety hazards. Safety hazards may include but not limited to:

- Very confined areas

- Unsupervised machines and equipment while in operation

- Spills and slippery floors inside the workplace and nearby premises

- Working from high areas including ladders, scaffolds, and roofs

- Careless operations of machinery such as boilers and forklifts

- Tripping hazards caused by cables, extensions, cords, and other items that can block the floors and aisles

- A mobile mechanism which can cause accidents when touched

- Hazards caused by electrical issues such as short circuits, improper wirings, frayed cords, and some ground pins which are no longer working

#3 Ergonomic Hazards. Ergonomic hazards often occur when jobs are related to work body positions and conditions such as fatigue, physical strain, and discomfort. These types of hazards are often difficult to prevent, especially in the beginning. But of course, with proper knowledge and implementation, these can be avoided and make the work experience a healthier and safer way.

Improper posture, for instance, when not given proper attention, can lead to adverse effects on the employees’ health. Ergonomic hazards can be short-term or long-term. The first one can be solved in a matter of days, such as muscle soreness and headaches. The latter can cause the body to experience serious ailments and conditions which require a longer time of attention.

Some of the usual types of ergonomic hazards may include the following:

- Actions that are done repetitively

- The need for frequent lifting jobs

- Vibrations

- Improper posture

- Lifting of objects heavier than the body’s weight

- Workstations that are improperly setup

- Wrong types of chairs and tables used

- Awkward movements while working such as typing, walking, or carrying objects

- Giving off too much force on a particular task which can lead to stressful jobs

#4 Biological Hazards. Biological hazards refer to those that are experienced while working with people, plants, animals, and even microorganisms. They are often acquired in places such as nursing homes, medical facilities, health care centres, schools, outdoor facilities, and universities. The most common types of biological hazards include the following:

- Bacteria and viruses

- Insect and bug bites

- Molds and fungi

- Droppings from birds and other animals

- Plant secretions that may be harmful to skin or respiratory systems

- Infected blood, mucus, and bodily fluids 

#6 Chemical Hazards. These chemical hazards affect people when they are being exposed to harmful chemicals (in any form) in the workplace. Although not all chemicals are dangerous to health, there are still chemical hazards that can bring worse damages to individuals who are allergic or sensitive to certain elements. Some of these elements can cause difficulty in breathing, skin itchiness, eye sensitivity, and other types of ailments.

The following are some of the chemicals that need to be handled with extra care and caution:

- Flammable materials such as solvents, diesel, petroleum, and explosive chemicals

- Acids

- Paints, solvents, and other cleaning products which are not labelled properly

- Welding fumes and solvent vapours

- Several kinds of gases such as carbon monoxide, helium, acetylene, and propane 

#7 Stress-Related Hazards. Aside from the types of hazards mentioned above, there are also some work organization hazards that should be avoided. These are things or factors that can cause panic and stress to the employees. These hazards are often caused by mismanagement and lack of communication.

The following are some examples:

- Violence in the work environment

- Being overwhelmed at work

- Tasks burnout

- Lack of respect and courtesy

- Heavy or over workload

- Lack of support from the team and colleagues

- Harassment

- Unable to express themselves in the workplace

- Lack of opportunity for flexibility

- No sense of accomplishment and work value


Final Thoughts

It is vital to obtain the proper knowledge about the different types of workplace hazards. This will not only open awareness to the employers and employees, but it will also make them responsible for how to become safe and perform better in the respective workstation. Company owners must ensure that they are implementing various precautionary measures against hazards at work.

Also, these should be identified, monitored, and reduced for the benefit of the workers, as well as ensuring to generate the highest quality of work. Applying ergonomics at work, for instance, is a crucial step in making sure that employees will be working with comfort and convenience. Invest on ergonomic equipment such as standing desks and accessories.