In the workplace, where employee welfare directly affects organizational performance, you should never neglect safety. Workplace health and safety must become ingrained in the corporate culture of any company that wishes to increase its productivity.
The first stage in any workplace risk assessment is identifying the hazards in the workplace. Although there will be a designated person for formal risk assessments, it is still everyone’s job to maintain safety at the workplace and be aware of workplace hazards and the harm they may cause.
There is no set manual for risk assessment, and there could be unique hazards in your workplace. As a result, identifying these hazards and protecting your employees could be challenging.
Understanding the various workplace hazards can help you implement policies to stop these hazards from entering the workplace. To better comprehend the different dangers in the workplace and their potential sites, we have developed this guide.
What is a Workplace Hazard?
Workplace hazards refer to the causes of potential danger or damage to someone or something at work. It could be a product or any activity resulting in injuries under certain circumstances.
There are primary occupational safety hazards like trips, slips, and falls. Still, as you will see in the next section, it is up to the employer to conduct routine risk assessments to pinpoint the company’s specific risks and hazards.
Knowing what risks are there and how a manager can successfully manage or mitigate them is one of the first stages in preventing hazards at the workplace. You can help your staff minimize risk by implementing new workplace regulations or mandating that they complete safety training.
Hazards vs. Risks
Here are the key differences between safety hazards and safety risks.
Hazards: Any source that could cause injury, damage, or unfavorable health impacts to someone or something is a hazard. Risk is the possibility or likelihood that a person would suffer harm or experience an adverse health outcome if exposed to a hazard.
Risks: In contrast to hazards, which refer to the causative agent, risks are defined as the probability or possibility of developing an illness or becoming wounded.
7 Type of Hazards in the Workplace
Workplace hazards may be divided into seven categories, regardless of where you work or what industry you are in. Categorizing workplace hazards makes it easier to identify and tackle them.
Whatever hazards your company may be dealing with, they will fall into one of the categories listed below, and we will show you how to identify and manage them.
1. Safety hazards
Any worker could be exposed to safety hazards, but those who use heavy equipment or work on construction sites are at a higher risk.
Safety hazards include:
- Anything that causes spills or trips someone, such as cords crossing the floor or ice
- Ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any elevated work area might lead to falls when working at heights
- Parts of moving machinery that are unguarded and that a worker could unintentionally encounter
- Tattered wires, missing ground pins, and frayed cables
- Enclosed spaces
Research by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), one of the most esteemed academic institutions in India, found that over 48,000 people in India die due to occupational accidents. These numbers emphasize the impact of safety hazards.
2. Biological hazards
Biological hazards are dangerous. They include exposure to dangerous substances and diseases by working with infected animals, people, or plant materials.
Those who work outdoors or in settings with biological risks, such as hospitals, labs, schools, and colleges, are at higher risk. The different biological dangers that employees might encounter are as follows:
- Bacteria and viruses,
- Blood and other bodily fluids
- Insect bites, and
- Animal and bird droppings
For instance, in India, health care personnel who are not exposed to Tuberculosis (TB) have a 0.1% to 2% chance of contracting it annually, compared to heavily exposed HCP who have a rate of 1% to 10% of contracting TB.
3. Physical hazards
Physical hazards could be the least visible of all the hazards at your workplace. Physical hazards, despite their name, aren’t usually things you can see or touch.
Workers who work in hazardous or harsh weather conditions face hazards. Any environmental factor that can injure the body without touching it is considered a physical hazard.
Physical hazards include:
- EMFs, microwaves, radio waves, and other ionizing and non-ionizing materials
- High levels of UV and sunlight exposure
- Gases under pressure
- Extreme temperatures – hot and cold
- Perpetually loud noise
4. Ergonomic hazards
When the nature of the job, body positions, and working circumstances burden the body, ergonomic hazards develop. Since you don’t instantly notice the stress on the body and the harm these hazards pose, they are the most difficult to identify. Long-term exposure can cause serious long-term illnesses, whereas short-term exposure may cause “sore muscles” the next day or the days after exposure.
Different types of ergonomic hazards are:
- Chairs and workstations that are not correctly adjusted
- Frequent lifting
- Bad posture
- Performing the same motions repeatedly
- Frequent application of excessive force and
Studies in the US have even shown that ergonomic hazards cause 33% of workplace accidents.
5. Chemical hazards
These hazards primarily threaten employees whose jobs require handling hazardous chemicals, liquids, or gases.
Engineers, field-based workers, and cleaning facility employees are most likely to be impacted by this workplace hazard. Skin irritation, breathing difficulties, illness, and, in severe circumstances, death can all result from exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Here are possible chemical hazards:
- Liquids such as cleaners, paints, acids, and solvents
- Fumes and vapors produced by welding or contact with chemicals
- Acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide, helium, and h2s gas
- Fuel, solvents, explosive chemicals, and flammable materials.
6. Workload hazards
These workplace hazards include workload, hostility, or violence that can lead to stress or strain. Every workplace may have workload-related risks, which must be quickly identified and eliminated to reduce the likelihood of an accident or injury.
- Workload requirements
- Occupational violence
- High cadence or intensity
- Respect (or lack thereof)
- Social interaction or support
- Sexual harassment
7. Environmental hazards
Environmental hazards are one of the most pressing and dynamic hazards constantly changing due to the more unpredictable and harsh weather and climate. The bad news is that they are mostly beyond our control. Still, the good news is that weather difficulties and hazards are relatively foreseeable with the change of seasons and advancements in meteorology.
- Extreme temperatures (dangerous heat and cold)
- Extreme rainfall (rain and snow)
- Dangerous radiation levels
- Pollution (air, water, chemical, etc.)
- Unsafe infrastructure
- Biology-related risks
- Public miscreants who are violent
- Dangerous animals
Risk assessment and hazard identification are used to determine the likelihood that a particular environment or activity may cause harm to a person. Employers who fail to uphold their duty to protect their employee’s risk face monetary and custodial penalties. Therefore, they must handle all of their workplace hazards appropriately.
Everyone must ensure workplace safety because a safety breach might have serious repercussions. Employees must therefore get adequate training on workplace safety precautions and guidelines, and appropriate safety monitoring systems must be installed and maintained.