Top 5 Hazards in the Workplace and How to Handle Them

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Hazards in the Workplace

When developing a safety risk management plan, it's often easier to investigate the top 5 hazards in the workplace in terms of themes. This streamlines the process and creates a big-picture view for analyzing equipment and tool usage. Whether you reference an online resource such as OSHA's Hazard Identification Training Tool, use a preprinted template, or try your own methods for assessment, create an outline that simplifies review procedures for everyone.

Physical and Ergonomic Health and Safety Hazards

The physical demands and operation of heavy machinery make such tasks a safety concern within warehouse, industrial, manufacturing, and construction jobs. Repetitive motion leads to strained muscles and fatigue or moments of inattention and complacency. They may not believe that all protective gear is necessary, they may cut corners with lockout/tagout procedures, or they may fail to check anchor points when working at heights.

Uncomfortable seating and improper lifting, reaching, bending, and unloading pose ergonomic hazards in the workplace. Make sure that employees maintain secure footing for all duties and that tripping hazards are removed. Check that extension cords and power strips aren't cluttering the floor and aren't overloaded and at risk for  fires. Teach staff to always check for spills, leaks, or if applicable, melting snow, which all can contribute to electrical injuries. Keep outside noise to a minimum, so that directions and announcements are easily heard.

5 Hazards in the Workplace Include Biological Contaminants

Biological contamination is a considerable concern for lab workers, cleanup crews, and those who work in environments where organic substances are present. Full precautions are necessary to combat mold and other pathogens that affect air quality. In addition to wearing the appropriate face, hand, and foot protection when handling bodily fluids or hazardous chemicals, be aware of other potential sources of irritation. Extreme temperatures, insect bites, and animal droppings can impact the safety of exterior and interior work settings.

Be Aware of Chemical Hazards

Similar health and safety hazards exist for work sites that contain flammable and caustic chemicals. Everyone involved with handling substances that burn, emit fumes, or can absorb through the skin, nasal passages, or eyes must consistently comply with proper procedures. This is an occupational risk where any length of exposure produces adverse effects, ranging from temporary irritations and distress to serious inflammatory or carcinogenic illnesses and injuries. The UC San Diego Laboratory Safety Manual contains helpful suggestions to reduce or eliminate physical and chemical hazards.

Emotional and Psychological Stressors Are Among the Top Hazards in the Workplace

Make sure to include emotional and psychological well-being in your risk reviews. Anxiety stems from a wide range of issues, such as concerns over job security, age, health, training, and new equipment, as well as changes in schedules, salary cuts, and harassment. When creating a dialogue about managing worries and sharing tips to teach stress reduction, emphasize an open-door policy for discussing counseling resources and the need to take time off, if necessary. Place depression, substance abuse, and sudden changes in behavior on your hazards in the workplace list, as they can certainly carry over to work performance.

Environmental Components of the Top 5 Hazards in the Workplace

In the category of environmental safety, confined spaces and tunnels are rife with concerns. Other environmental hazards-in-the-workplace examples include clutter and misplaced objects that obstruct machinery, and stacks and piles that exceed capacity. Conduct practice drills to review ease of access and movement within a work site, and never allow emergency exits, circuit breakers, sprinkler systems, or fire extinguishers to be blocked. Look for resources about how to write a successful workplace safety quiz that tests employee safety knowledge.

Factors that Affect Workplace Health and Safety

It's important to think outside the immediately obvious while identifying hazards in the workplace and determining risk factors. The following can increase the likelihood of an incident occurring, and may even incur fines from governing bodies:

  • Lack of permits
  • Rushing to meet deadlines
  • Lack of warning or instructional signs
  • Insufficient training
  • Out-of-date equipment, methods, or protocols
  • Not enough breaks during work shifts

This “What Causes Accidents” video is from the “Safety Memos” series. It points out that human error is the cause of many accidents. Try using a video like this during employee training:

Prioritize Reducing Safety Hazards in the Workplace

Encourage open communication and group engagement in every review and take everyone's level of expertise and familiarity into account. Have them participate in job hazard analysis for these top 5 hazards in the workplace so everyone can improve the workplace together.

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Topics: Safety Training, Workplace Risk, Laboratory Safety

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