Some hazard reports point to 4 workplace hazards, some point to 5, a few go over the 6 mark. But generally, these six hazards are included in all of those lists, one way or another. No matter the number, recognition of these hazards, and training about them will result in better recognition of problems, and ultimately a more positive workplace culture.
To prevent workplace hazards, you first need to know how to recognize them, and you don’t have to be in a busy factory to have workplace hazards, as things like environmental hazards can, and do exist everywhere. Here are the six workplace hazards, and ways to identify them.
Given the vastness of the current coronavirus pandemic, starting with biological hazards seems sensible. Bacteria and viruses can be present in any workplace, and prevention starts with cleanliness and sanitization (as we are all very familiar with). For occupations that involve a lot of outdoor activity, insect bites or other animal interactions are considered biological hazards. All workplaces that involve outside work need to determine what kinds of plants and animals will be present and must have all appropriate countermeasures available to minimize the effects if one of these issues should arise.
Blood and bodily fluids are also biological hazards, and though they exist most frequently in places like hospitals and nursing homes, it is important to always train in proper cleaning procedures when a cut or something of the like may occur. Similarly, fungus and mould are also biological hazards, so any places with food need to be regularly inspected.
Most physical hazards can also show up in any sort of workplace, inside or out, office or factory. These include electrical hazards that should be routinely checked by professionals, and safety teams should note that electrical hazards are more dangerous in wet conditions. Fires are also physical hazards that can occur anywhere, and proper extinguishing equipment should be regularly checked.
Other hazards that come with working inside like asbestos exposure and carbon monoxide need to have proper alerts in place.
Similar to biological hazards, chemical hazards are manmade items and solutions that need to be handled properly to avoid risks. Cleaning chemicals exist in almost every workspace, and even though they are everyday solutions, they can still pose risks and must be stored properly. Other workplace-specific chemical hazards must also be regularly trained on, such as welding fumes, or nail care products.
Safety hazards can be difficult to prepare for, as new ones can come into play every day. To avoid such things as frayed rugs, wet floors, and cables that can be tripped on, a collective effort of common sense and awareness should be preached, and any time an employee sees a potential safety hazard, he or she should feel confident in bringing it to their employer’s attention without fear of repercussion.
These may be the most difficult to identify, as ergonomic hazards are conditions that wouldn’t have immediate effects on those who are at risk. Such hazards include poor lifting and other manual labour techniques that can lead to back problems, as well as excessive typing or uncomfortable seating for those who may not be doing manual labour but are still at risk of long-term ergonomic issues like carpal tunnel. Identifying these takes a bit of research, and your team should be regularly discussing working conditions and comfort levels of your employees.
Even more so than ergonomic hazards, psychosocial hazards are difficult to identify, as it takes someone speaking up about an issue that is draining his or her mental strength. Outside issues like family trouble can turn into a workplace hazard if not given proper time to fix. As far as hazards specifically at the workplace, a lack of cultural diversity can affect the psyche of employees who do not feel welcomed, and all types of harassment would qualify as such.
Some of these hazards require less attention than others, but all of them should still be checked for regularly, with things such as safety hazards and psychosocial hazards being discussed often, with encouragement to share any issues regarding these things. Steady training on these 6 types of hazards will keep a workplace safe, and an employee pool healthy, both physically and mentally.
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.