Types Of Hazards In The Workplace
The meaning of the word hazard can be confusing. Often dictionaries do not give specific definitions or combine them with the term “risk”. For example, one dictionary defines a hazard as “a danger or risk”
which helps explain why many people use the terms interchangeably. Hazards in the workplace occur when the working environment can cause injury, illness, or death. The hazards can result from many aspects of the working world, including equipment, dangerous materials, unsafe working practices, and people’s behavior.
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Types of Hazard
Workplace hazards fall into six core types – safety, biological, physical, ergonomic, chemical and workload.
1) Safety hazards
Safety hazards can affect any employee, but these are more likely to affect those who work with machinery or on a construction site. Safety hazards include slips, trips, falls, operating dangerous machinery, and electrical hazards. These are the most common and will be present in most workplaces at one time or another. They include unsafe conditions that can cause injury, illness, and death. Safety
- Spills on floors or tripping hazards, such as blocked aisles or cords running across the floor
- Working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
- Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts; guards removed or moving parts that a worker can accidentally touch
- Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
- Confined spaces
- Machinery-related hazards (lockout/Tagout, boiler safety, forklifts, etc.)
2) Biological hazards
Associated with working with animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Work in schools, daycare facilities, colleges and universities, hospitals, laboratories, emergency response, nursing homes, outdoor occupations, etc. may expose you to biological hazards. Types of things you may be exposed to include:
- Blood and other body fluids
- Bacteria and viruses
- Insect bites
- Animal and bird droppings
Biological hazards are extremely dangerous. These include exposure to hazardous substances and diseases associated with working amongst animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Employees who work in hospitals, laboratories, or various other outdoor occupations are at risk from biological hazards.
3) Physical hazards
These are factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it. Physical Hazards include:
- Radiation: including ionizing, and nonionizing (EMFs, microwaves, radiowaves, etc.)
- High exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet rays
- Temperature extremes – hot and cold
- Constant loud noise
Physical hazards can affect those who work in extreme weather conditions or in harmful environments. Workers exposed to continuous loud noise, radiation, sun rays, and ultraviolet rays could be at risk.
4) Ergonomic hazards
Occur when the type of work, body positions, and working conditions put a strain on your body. They are the hardest to spot since you don’t always immediately notice the strain on your body or the harm that these hazards pose. Short-term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following exposure, but long-term exposure can result in serious long-term illnesses. Ergonomic Hazards include:
- Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs
- Frequent lifting
- Poor posture
- Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive
- Repeating the same movements over and over
- Having to use too much force, especially if you have to do it frequently
Ergonomic hazards affect individuals whose work puts a strain on their bodies. Manual roles that require lifting or sitting for long periods can cause damage over time. These hazards may not be noticeable at first which makes them much harder to identify. If your staff use improperly adjusted workstations or have poor posture when performing manual roles and heavy lifting, they may be at risk of injury.
5) Chemical hazards
Are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid or gas). Some are safer than others, but to some workers who are more sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems. Beware of:
- Liquids like cleaning products, paints, acids, solvents – ESPECIALLY if chemicals are in an unlabeled container!
- Vapors and fumes that come from welding or exposure to solvents
- Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide, and helium
- Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents, and explosive chemicals.
Chemical hazards mainly threaten employees whose roles expose them to dangerous liquids, solvents, or flammable gases. Individuals who are most likely to be affected are those working in cleaning facilities, engineers, and employees in field-based roles. Exposure to harmful chemicals can cause illness, skin irritation, breathing problems, and, in extreme cases, death.
6) Workload hazards
Hazards or stressors that cause stress (short-term effects) and strain (long-term effects). These are the hazards associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and/or respect, etc. Examples of work organization hazards include:
- Workload demands
- Workplace violence
- The intensity and/or pace
- Respect (or lack of)
- Control or say things
- Social support/relations
- Mental harassment
Workload hazards include issues that could cause stress or strain, such as workload, violence, or aggression. These hazards can be experienced in any job role. However, lone workers may struggle to voice concerns due to their isolated work environment or find themselves a target for anti-social behavior.
7) Environmental hazards
Last but definitely least are environmental hazards which are constantly changing with increasingly unpredictable – and extreme – weather and climate. The bad news is that they are mostly out of our control, but the good news is weather challenges and hazards are somewhat predictable with the change in seasons and advances in meteorology.
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- Extreme temperatures (dangerous heat and cold)
- Extreme precipitation (rain and snow)
- Dangerous levels of noise
- Dangerous levels of radiation
- Pollution (air and chemical)
- Unstable infrastructure
- Biological hazards
- Violent members of the public
- Dangerous animals
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