Safety has to be a priority of all people wherever they go, especially in the workplace. To achieve this, you need to be aware of the various types of workplace hazards to which you may have exposure. At the same time, employers must also conduct the proper procedures to plan and implement safety protocols that would address office hazards.
So, what are the types of hazards in the workplace? These involve the materials the workers handle, the spaces they are in, the equipment they use, mental health hazards, interpersonal conflicts and violence, pollution, ventilation, natural disasters, and sanitation, among others.
Here is a comprehensive list of 25 hazards that workplaces need to address:
Various organizations, such as those in the industrial, medical, and agricultural sectors, use hazardous liquids which pose threats to the safety of employees. Usually, these substances come in the form of acids in cleaning products, disinfectants, glues, paints, pesticides, petroleum products, and solvents.
Hazardous liquids can be inhaled, spilled onto the skin or other sensitive body parts, or even swallowed accidentally. It could lead to poisoning, vomiting, headache, allergies, burns, and several other health risks.
To reduce the exposure to hazardous substances, try to avoid these whenever possible. The management should also ensure that these hazardous liquids in the duly designated storages.
Protective equipment like gloves and goggles should also be available to facilitate better material handling. At the same time, there should also be a designated person in charge of routine monitoring of the degree of hazardous substances in the workplace premises.
Common hazardous gases in the workplace include natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, autogas, medical gas, and methane. More so, there remains the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is an odorless and colorless type of gas produced by improperly burned gas. Once inhaled, carbon monoxide constricts the capacity of the hemoglobin to carry oxygen in the blood and can lead to fatalities.
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, it would be best to maintain adequate ventilation in rooms with heavy-duty appliances. Credible personnel should install and monitor these machines to prevent mistakes in functioning.
At the same time, exhaust systems and chimneys should also be kept free from anything that may block the vent system from operating. In case of an emergency from a gas explosion, employees should also be aware of which number to call for immediate relief.
Radiation is another prevalent type of hazard in the workplace. Little do people know that wherever they go, radiation is almost always present. For instance, electric wires and induction furnaces produce extremely low-frequency radiation.
Radio emitters and cellular phones can release microwave radiation and radiofrequency radiation. Infrared radiation comes from heat lamps and lasers. Ionizing radiation is present in health care facilities and research institutions, as well as manufacturing plants.
The thing about radiation, though, is that it is not harmful in small doses. However, prolonged exposure to radiation can increase chances of a person of getting cancer and in extreme cases, may even lead to death.
To minimize the risks of radiation, it is always good to keep a distance or shield yourself from the radiation source. You may also reduce your exposure time to it or use a respirator or face mask when you need to.
Ergonomic hazards in the workplace arise when employees encounter discomfort or strain from using the typical tools in the office such as workstations, desks, and office chairs. It is worthy to note, however, that more than just the discomfort and the inconvenience caused by poor ergonomic design, the muscle strain, imbalance, and fatigue experienced by workers are the most significant concerns.
Given that employees spend one-third of their work life sitting in their chairs, proper ergonomics is very important. The first step towards proper ergonomics in the office is hiring an ergonomics expert who would give a better perspective on making sure that all tools have designs that minimize discomfort.
Office tools should be easy to use for both left-handed and right-handed people. The choice of chairs and desks should also consider the average height and weight of individuals. In the end, ergonomics should result in comfortable and safe employees as they exhibit higher morale and productivity.
Considering that workers spend their time with each other every day, it becomes unavoidable for them to share things, even illnesses. Just a simple cough and colds of one worker may be transmitted as a person coughs, sneezes, or talks because this infection is air-borne.
The spread of infectious diseases poses severe risks on employees as this hampers their productivity and endangers their physical well-being. To address this risk, proper hygiene should be encouraged for all workers. It includes getting immunization from infectious illnesses, regular washing of hands, and covering of mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Moreover, if a co-worker is sick, it is advisable to let them go home instead to contain the disease. In case outbreaks happen, the management should have appropriate plans in place to address pandemics and ensure workplace safety.
While stress could make employees more driven and productive, it could lead to disastrous, and sometimes irreversible results when left out of hand. When unchecked, office stress could interfere with the performance of an employee and even put their health and personal life at risk.
Common sources of stress in the workplace are fear of termination, overtime, and lack of job satisfaction. The pressure manifests in anxiety, indifference, fatigue, lack of sleep, social withdrawals, and resort to vices.
Do not fret, however, because you can overcome office stress! First, build a support group amongst your co-workers. A stressful environment can be made more bearable by a good company.
Try to make time for the things that you like to do. It is your ultimate outlet. It will let you find yourself in the chaos of office work. In addition, remember to eat healthily and exercise. Lastly, do not sacrifice your sleep. It is your best ally when it comes to overcoming office stress as it gives your mind the time to relax and rejuvenate.
Like any other community, interpersonal conflicts also pervade the workplace. These include miscommunication, gossiping, bullying, harassment of any kind, discrimination, disagreements between bosses and subordinates, etc.
These sociological constraints could lead to employees losing their motivation, thereby hampering their performance, and eventually causing them to withdraw from the organization.
Psychotherapy is an effective way to resolve these workplace issues. Employees learn about the proper and healthy coping skills which they can use to manage work-related stress such as identifying unhealthy thoughts, improving mood, and not focusing on the stressors. Some employers do offer counseling services for their employees at no cost. It is an excellent way to take care of employee morale.
In one study among working American, 18% of those employed said that they experienced symptoms of a mental health disorder just in the previous month. Due to the frequent stress exposure at work, as well as multiple disappointments and perceived failures, many people fall into bouts of depression and anxious thoughts without even realizing it. More so, the stigma associated with mental health disorders has entangled people to believe that what they are going through is not normal.
What companies all over the world should begin to realize is that mental health disorders are just as crucial to treat as physical disorders. They equally impede employee performance and stunt their motivation and growth.
For instance, when the worker receives proper treatment for depression, companies report a reduction in job-related accidents and employee absences, as well as less frequent employee turnover. There is also a noticeable improvement in productivity and job satisfaction.
Similar to mental health disorders, workplace violence is also prevalent. Nearly 2 million American workers experience being victims of workplace violence every single year, but most of these cases go unreported.
At the same time, of the 4,679 fatal workplace injuries recorded in 2014, 403 were workplace homicides. Workplace violence pertains to any act or threat of physical violence, bullying, intimidation, and disruptive behavior that occurs in the office.
Probably the best protection that employees can get from their employers is the establishment of a zero tolerance policy towards workplace violence. All members of the organization should live and breathe the principles of respecting human lives and dignity all the time. A well-written and firmly implemented workplace violence prevention program can help reduce the incidence of workplace violence.
Just like any other case of pollution, noise levels over prolonged periods do critical and often irreparable damage to the hearing of employees. Sudden explosive sounds like gunshots or bombs can cause damages right then and there.
Aside from that, some people exposed to heightened noise levels tend to develop tinnitus, a constant ringing sound which causes irritability. However, for most cases, noise pollution could lead to a noise-induced hearing loss – to which there is no cure.
To reduce exposure to excessive noise, employers can change or modify equipment which appears to cause excessive noise levels. These machines can be located to a more isolated area to lessen the intensity of the noise, or placed in a soundproof room to fully contain the sound.
Companies have to ensure that their employees have quiet areas wherein they can work with focus and where they can conduct their meetings without distractions. On the part of the employees, they can also use personal hearing protection tools like earplugs.
Workplace fires cause severe damage to people and property every year. More than a thousand workplace fires happened in the UK back in 2013. While there could be an assortment of reasons causing workplace fires, negligence and faulty wires are the most common.
One fire hazard is the buildup of readily combustible materials like paper and cardboard, especially in corporate offices. An untested fire alarm is also a hazard, as this does not serve its purpose to let people know that a fire has started somewhere in the building.
To address these fire hazards, companies should be diligent in regularly disposing of combustible waste and other materials that could potentially trigger fires. Flammable liquids and heat-inducing materials should be in their proper storages and kept in well-ventilated places.
The company should also put in place a well-functioning fire alarm system that would serve as a preventive measure and a way for employees to act appropriately in case of an emergency.
Inadequate electric wiring exists when a conductor is too small to carry the current safely. It happens when the wire is too small in comparison to a massive tool, thus causing overheating and eventual fire, when left unchecked.
Also, when too many plugs are in the same circuit, this could cause an overload of electricity which could heat the wires and cause an explosion. There could also be some live electric wires which facilitate direct contact with the electric current, which could lead to electrocution.
It is imperative to monitor any signs of loose electric cables, damaged plugs, or any faulty equipment. These should be reported to management for proper guidance and should be routinely checked and tested by experts. Electric machinery should never be left on overnight unless it is necessary.
Also, employees should not use appliances that aggregate to more than 3000 watts in one power source, to avoid overloading. In areas where there are live wires or high voltage, prominent warning signs should be made available.
Long working hours, especially with the use of computers, cause eye strain to employees. Poor lighting only aggravates this eye fatigue. Moreover, when it is inadequate, there is a higher chance of accidents and injuries occurring from momentary blindness while the eyes adjust to sudden shifts in brightness.
Too much or too little light make things more difficult to see. Too low a contrast makes it hard to distinguish an object from its background. Flickering light can cause misjudgments in position, shape, and speed of objects.
An adequately lit office space has a general lighting system that is relatively uniform. Nevertheless, it should also allow users to adjust and control the lighting for more flexibility.
The company should replace light bulbs on a regular schedule and should keep these light fixtures clean. The walls and ceilings may also be painted with bright colors so that light can be efficiently reflected. Also, light fixtures should not be placed directly behind the worker. Finally, use light fixtures that appropriately diffuse or concentrate light well, to avoid glare.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that poor indoor air quality can be hazardous to the health of employees. When ventilation, heating, and air conditioning systems are not operating correctly, when humidity levels are erratic, and when outside air pollutants combine with indoor air, ventilation goes out of whack.
The failure of the systems results in headaches, fatigue, irritability, and loss of focus among workers. This hazard is easy to spot because people only feel sick when they are inside the office premises, and the symptoms disappear after they step out of the building.
To ensure excellent air quality in the office, a local exhaust should be present to remove pollutants before they even disperse into the other parts of the building. It would result in thermal comfort, equal air distribution, and dilution of contaminants.
Apart from these, an air cleaning system, which removes dust particles and other toxins from the air passing through the filter, should also be in place. This way, employees can safely thrive in the office premises without encountering respiratory issues and other health threats.
In freezing environments, the internal temperature of the body tends to fall below the normal limits because the body uses up heat more quickly than it can produce it. It would lead to cold and numb hands and feet, involuntary shivers, even less efficiency, speech difficulty, and disorientation.
Conversely, in extremely hot environments, the internal temperature of the body tends to rise above the normal limits, so the body loses excess heat through the production of sweat. It could result in heat rash, cramps, exhaustion, and even heat stroke.
To address cold environment hazards, adequate heating systems should be in place. Employees should also be ready with adequately fitted and multi-layered clothing that would help the body preserve internal heat.
On the other hand, for hot environment hazards, air cooling systems should be in place and employees should be allowed rest breaks to help the body recuperate. Water should also be made available to enable employees to re-hydrate.
Examples of enclosed workspaces include pits, trenches, sewers, drainages, tanks, chambers, tunnels, underground pathways, unventilated rooms, and small work areas. In these confined spaces, employees face hazardous conditions such as lack of oxygen, lack of natural light, high concentrations of dust or liquids, heightened exposure to fumes, etc. In this high-risk work environment, people get serious physical injuries, while some do die during work.
Before doing any work in confined spaces, workers should be able to understand specific health and safety guidelines from their respective regulatory agencies. When unsure, workers should seek professional help which should be made available to them.
The company should conduct seminars and talks to provide a proper briefing for these workers. This way, they are better able to perform their tasks, while minimizing the hazards of their work environment.
Jobs which involve working at height include steelworkers erecting a structure on top of a building, roofers cladding the roof, demolition workers dismantling elevated machines, welders hanging from the side of the building, etc.
Accidental falls account for the highest percentage of annual fatalities in the workplace; while falling objects cause severe injuries that may result in permanent damage to the body.
To address these risks, sound design and use of proper materials are keys to ensuring the durability of the equipment used in working at height. Access equipment should be specified and positioned correctly to keep the workers safe through the course of their job.
Competent personnel who are well aware of safety regulations should check and install these designs. The condition of the structure wherein people are working on should be sound. They have to be free from deterioration from the weather and attack from animals and other insects.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, elevator accidents kill around 30 and cause severe injuries to about 17,000 people annually in the US.
Half of the deaths are among people who are installing, repairing, or maintaining the elevators; while the other half is workers near elevator shafts. Other hazards are also present aside from fatalities such as trips and fall hazards, risks of electrocution, noise-induced hearing loss, eye injury from debris, exposure to high voltages, and exposure to hazardous substances.
To mitigate these hazards, work areas close to elevators should be adequately ventilated, well lighted, clear of debris and clutter, unobstructed, secure from unauthorized access, and kept free from flammable substances.
Workers should also use proper attire and personal protective equipment all the time. They should have the proper tools that would help them carry out the job well. They should also avoid any form of distraction such as cellular phones, loud music, working under the influence of alcohol, and even joking around.
Poorly constructed buildings pose high risks on the health and safety not only of the employees but practically of everyone who goes in and out of the building premises. Defective designs, selection of shoddy construction materials, and errors in laying the building foundation result in building structures which are not as durable as they out to be.
At the same time, inaccurate estimates, improper equipment, and materials, as well as poor project management during the construction phase weaken the structure.
To address this, companies have to start with finding the right construction partners including the architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors, and actual construction companies.
Companies also need to be very hands-on with regard to the building construction to avoid any discrepancies from the intended building plan. It is the very first step towards creating a safer workplace for employees.
Hazards posed by dangerous machines include the possibility of amputation or caught-in especially when workers deal with those of repetitive motion. Sharp edges could also cause injuries when left unguarded.
If it uses corrosives or other harmful chemicals, a possibility of leak can also arise. Equipment wirings could also pose the risk of electrocution of workers when not given proper attention. Even the eyes are at placed at risk due to chips, sparks, or dust that could come from heavy duty machines.
Proper training is the single most effective way to avoid hazards from dangerous machines. Companies should conduct appropriate training and seminars to educate workers on how to properly and safely use them.
This way, they are in a better position to assess when operating conditions are no longer safe. They should also be well-trained in using personal protective equipment.
The use of any tool in the workplace can make work easier. But when it becomes defective, it can cause various mishaps ranging from a simple cut in the finger to irreversible damages to the body.
Sometimes, workers persist in using tools which are already defective due to the lack of replacement and the urgency of the need. As a result, employees could end up hurting themselves or other people; thereby impeding the continuation of work and causing more harm than good.
Regarding defective office tools, it would be best to coordinate with the procurement department of the company and trigger a purchase of a replacement item. Until then, refrain from using the defective tool and seek alternatives to perform the job.
It is also important not to overuse an object which is already fully depreciated. This way would keep all employees safe from any unexpected result of insisting on the use of something that has already worn out.
Even the newest tools and the most durable buildings will not ensure the safety of workers without an adequately laid down emergency preparedness plan. This inadequacy can happen through simple negligent acts in the building.
Obstructions in the fire exits prevent the safe and quick escape of people in case of fires or earthquakes. Very narrow walkways also hamper the immediate evacuation of people in emergencies.
A comprehensive emergency plan is a must-do for every organization. During emergencies, all elevators should be shut down, and people will only be made to use the stairways.
Floor plans should also be made visible throughout the building to guide people properly towards the direction of the emergency exits. The exits should also be appropriately labeled and lit. Now and then, the company should conduct fire and earthquake drills to educate employees of the proper way to respond to emergencies.
When the office premises do not have proper sanitation, employees face higher chances of contracting diseases than they would typically do in cleaner environments. The spread of diseases becomes quicker and more intense with unclean office places, which makes it harder to maintain. Moreover, dirty workplaces could taint the reputation of a company especially since almost all companies have some form of customer interaction.
Proper sanitation should come not only from the management but from every individual. Sanitizer wipes and tissues should be placed all over the office premises. Ensure regular cleaning of computer equipment like the keyboard, mouse, phones, and headsets.
For the pantry area, remember to keep it clean by washing your dishes and throwing away your food correctly. Disinfect when needed and implement the mantra, “Clean As You Go.”
Infectious agents are prevalent in unclean office spaces and cause severe damage to employee health. For instance, bacteria are responsible for tuberculosis and pneumonia, as well as several other waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
Meanwhile, parasitic worms from improperly discarded leftover food can cause debilitating illnesses in the stomach and digestive system.
Before these diseases even get contracted by workers, proper sanitation should already be in place. In addition, companies can also extend free immunization services to their employees to better equip them physically. It could increase the chances of employees surviving any chance of contracting severe and infectious diseases; thereby promoting workplace health and safety.
The most severe effect of improper waste management on employees is with regard to their health. When people come in contact with waste, it irritates the skin and infection of the blood.
Employees can also contract diseases from flies, which are bearers of more severe illnesses. Also, mosquitoes swarm dead fish, sewage, rainwater, tires, cans, and other breeding grounds that when left unchecked can cause diseases such as malaria and dengue.
Companies should employ proper waste management to keep their employees healthy and productive. Partnering with waste management companies is crucial for this. Trash bins should be made readily available in conspicuous places, but also routinely monitored throughout the day to avoid accumulation. The organization should also implement proper segregation of waste.
How can I start managing these hazards? Recently, companies and governments from all over the world have spearheaded initiatives for workplace safety. For instance, in Canada, an online website was created to serve as a repository of reliable and up-to-date occupational disease sources. These are intended to educate both employers and workers of workplace hazards and prevention. Upon proper implementation, the likelihood of preventing accidents in the workplace declines massively.
Does company culture have something to do with the hazards in the workplace? Workplace safety would boil down to it. The shared practices, attitudes, and collective behavior of people are critical in establishing a positive and healthy work environment. Especially when top management is committed to ensuring workplace safety, it can confidently be expected to prioritize employee safety at work.
You must be logged in to post a comment.