Safety has to be a priority of all people wherever they go, especially in the workplace. To successfully achieve this goal, you must be aware of the different types of workplace hazards to which you may have exposure.
The following are 15 of the most common types of hazards that you may encounter in your workplace.
1. Electrical Hazards
Electrical hazards can cause injury due to electrical shock or fire – so use extreme caution when using electrical equipment.
They include power generators, fuse panels, electricity distribution systems, electric motors and circuit breakers. If you suspect there is a problem with any of these units, turn off the power (refer to your facility’s emergency operations plan) and report it immediately to your supervisor.
OSHA requires employers to maintain an ‘electrical protective equipment’ program for employees working on or near exposed energized parts; this includes enclosed areas such as crawl spaces containing electrical wiring and fixtures that have accessible openings through which employees can contact exposed energized parts.
2. Mechanics Hazards
Mechanics hazards include hand tools, power tools, and vehicle-based equipment (forklifts, aerial lifts, etc.). Take note of the following:
Hand Tools – Be aware that certain hand tools have special features designed to reduce the risk of injury. Examples are safety chisels or gouges (safety cutting edges), utility knives (self retracting blades).
Inspect these items regularly for damage before use to prevent injuries where you can’t see the dangers or likelihood of accidents occurring.
Always place hands as close as possible from the tool’s center of gravity when doing overhead work so that it will be easier to control its downward force in case your grip slips fatigue.
Power Tools – Be aware that certain power tools have special features designed to reduce the risk of injury.
Examples are pneumatic chipping guns (restricted finger guards), table saws (anti-kickback devices and always place your hands as close as possible from the tool’s center of gravity when doing overhead work so that it will be easier to control its downward force in case your grip slips fatigue).
Always inspect electric bench grinders for frayed or damaged cords before use, they can cause serious burns if they come in contact with skin.
3. Hazards Related to Allergies
Allergies can develop at any time throughout your life; symptoms range from mild discomfort to death. Some reactions can be severe enough to cause death from anaphylactic shock.
Symptoms of allergies can be varied and may not occur for a short time after the exposure to the allergen. Some common allergens include:
Aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) – Penicillin – Latex – found in gloves, surgical tubing, medication vials; products that contain or are produced using natural rubber latex should be avoided by allergy sufferers
4. Heat Hazards
Heat stress is a dangerous risk associated with many workplace activities. You could get dizzy or pass out due to heat exhaustion. Usually your body will let you know when it has had too much heat exposure; signs/symptoms of heat exhaustion are:
– Cool, moist skin with goose pimples – Fatigue – Weakness – Headache; dizziness – Cramps in leg or abdomen; nausea and/or vomiting
If you suspect heat stress is occurring to one of your employees, call an ambulance immediately. Then remove the source of heat exposure (e.g., have workers move from a hot area into the shade). Administer first aid as necessary, cool the victim by immersing him/her in cold water (the temperature should be about 50 degrees F) or fanning.
Treat for shock if necessary; do not give fluids orally because it could cause further dehydration. Have someone stay with the affected person at all times until medical help arrives.
5. Noise Hazards
Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noises during work activities. Some ways to protect yourself from noise hazards include:
Hearing protection (earplugs or earmuffs) – Monitoring workers noise exposure through audiometric testing and other means, including employee complaints, observation of physical symptoms and behavior changes.
Excessive noise exposure, engineering controls such as modification of machinery, administrative measures including installation of sound absorbing panels and/or the use of headsets connected to mobile phones and hands free devices – using a device that allows you to talk on your cell phone without holding it.
6. Respiratory Hazards
Respiratory hazards include inhaling chemicals, dusts, metal fumes, and other harmful airborne particles.
If you are an employee in a chemical industry or one who uses various solvents, always use proper respiratory protection when working with them.
Some types of safety equipment include:
- Respirators (air-purifying respirators may be worn when specific contaminants have been identified)
- Particulate respirator masks – used to prevent inhalation of tiny dust particles
7. Water Hazards
Some accidents at work may involve getting wet by water, contact with chemicals or electric shock.
If this is the case, make sure everyone wears personal protective equipment such as; gloves, boots and eye protectors. When working around electricity on a boat or ship never assume the power has been turned off.
Always de-energize (switch off) the system at the main switchboard and ensure all potentially dangerous equipment is isolated from power supply.
Some electrical hazards associated with water are: Lightning – Unprotected metal parts, such as rails and docks and piers weakened by corrosion
8. Vehicle Hazards
If you must travel to work using a vehicle or are working on one, make sure everyone who comes into contact with vehicles has been properly trained in how they should be maintained and operated.
Everyone should follow these safety precautions when operating forklifts:
- Wear protective clothing (footwear that covers your feet, pants that cover your knees)
• Never turn around while driving a forklift
• Make sure there is plenty of space around you to drive
• Only drive a forklift in a straight line – Never stand between the forks of a two-tired forklift
9. Power Hazards
We are all aware that there are some power lines we shouldn’t get too close to, but did you know that just being near them doesn’t mean you’re safe?
In fact, studies show that 50% of electrocutions in the workplace occur when someone is working near energized equipment (such as a high-voltage panel) and tries to make adjustments or repairs.
It’s also important to remember not all electrical currents can be seen—invisible electric fields generated by high voltage may extend for several feet around an energized conductor.
The only way to avoid shock is to keep at least one hand in contact with a known safe surface.
Never assume that current flow has been turned off—always de-energize (switch off) the system at the main switchboard and ensure all potentially dangerous equipment is isolated from power supply.
10. Fire Hazards
According to OSHA, more than half of workplace fires are caused by “smoke, flame, or other combustion products.”
When working around fire or flames make sure everyone wears protective clothing such as: – Flame resistant headgear – Nomex hoods – Rubber boots/shoes – Heavy cotton work gloves – Clothing made of synthetic materials (such as wool and rayon) can melt onto your skin which could result in serious injury or death
11. Chemical Hazards
A chemical hazard is any substance that can cause illness, injury or death if it enters the body.
Some common workplace chemicals and what they do:
Ammonia – found in many cleaning agents, fuels, fertilizers
Bleach – used for bleaching wood pulp and other things
Formaldehyde – preservative for dead specimens; also used as a disinfectant
Here’s how to be safe around them: Wear protective clothing when mixing/handling these chemicals and set up appropriate ventilation systems (local exhaust).
12. Biological Hazards
Biohazards are bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxic plants that can cause infections to humans.
The most common biological hazards in the workplace are:
Bacteria – such as staphylococci and streptococci, found in dirt, dust, food.
Fungi – mildews are the most common fungi
Viruses – Chemicals used to kill biohazards include detergents that contain biocides.
You should follow these steps when using them: Always mix chemicals away from where you will be working and wear protective clothing (gloves) and goggles or face shields.
13. Genetic Hazards
Fluorescent bacteria under ultraviolet light Reflecting on this kind of hazard can conjure up images of science fiction movies or comic books.
However genetic hazards do exist in today’s world. It is important to remember that exposing yourself to genetic hazards can happen accidentally when you are working with hazardous materials.
Some of the most common genetic hazards in the workplace include:
• Cryogenic fluids – Nitrogen, oxygen helium
- Batteries and cells – Chemical decomposition
Working with these kinds of chemicals can expose you to some serious dangers. Fortunately, there is a way reduce your risk—using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as: gloves, face shields, goggles or full body suits.
One other way to avoid exposure is by preventing these substances from coming into contact with your skin in the first place—try wearing protective boots and clothing made out synthetic material like Nomex® Let’s take a look at how we can protect ourselves from:
Radioactive materials – Radium and uranium are the most common radioactive substances. When working with radioactive substances, you should always wear protective clothing
14. Ergonomic Hazards
Also known as work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMDs), these types of injuries can affect any part of your body—your neck, back, joints or muscles; they occur when a person is doing the same repetitive motion over an extended period of time.
Some ways to prevent WRMDs include:
- Adopt a “no touching” policy so workers don’t pick up tools/parts that someone else has handled without washing their hands first.
- Make sure tools are designed for maximum comfort in the workplace, For example, a headband magnifier will reduce the amount of strain that occurs when you use small tools.
- Also make sure workers can easily reach equipment and parts without having to reach or bend over – Use lifts or hoists to avoid heavy lifting
15. Risk Management Hazards
Think about this scenario: A worker is 150 feet up on a cell tower with no access for emergency personnel; then suddenly the employee feels dizzy before losing consciousness.
The end result could be death or very serious injury. This kind of situation happens far too often in our industry (electrical).
Here’s how to stay safe in those kinds of situations, make sure workers are trained on proper procedures for doing their job.