It’s important to work in an environment where you and your coworkers feel safe and are protected from harm. But sometimes, even workplace environments or habits can lead to injury.
OSHA has published a list of the six kinds of work hazards, which serve as a great guide to find out if you’re working with a potential safety risk.
A worker can be exposed to a chemical in liquid, gas, or solid form in the workplace, which can cause many serious health issues. Although chemicals will range in the level of safety, some people will find certain chemicals more irritating and potentially cause problems with breathing, skin irritation, and illnesses.
Watch out for:
- Cleaning products, paints, solvents and acids
- Fumes and vapors as the result of a task like welding
- Gases including propane, helium, carbon monoxide and propane
- Any chemicals that can be flammable like gasoline
- Chemicals that kill bugs and other pests
The most common kind of work hazard, safety hazards are environmental conditions that are unsafe enough to cause injury, sickness or death. Common safety concerns in the workplace include:
- Falling hazards caused by spills on the floor or tripping on items like cords
- Working high off the ground on equipment like scaffolding or ladders
- Moving machinery and machinery parts that are unattended or unguarded and can be accidentally touched
- Electrical hazards that can provide an electrical shock or electrocution
Physical hazards can harm you without having to touch or actively seek it out. They exist within your work environment, such as:
- Radiation from microwaves and radio waves
- Exposure to ultraviolet rays or sunlight
- Temperature extremes from hot to cold
- Loud noise that, if prolonged, can cause hearing damage or loss
This kind of hazard has to do with jobs that deal with animals, people or plant materials. This includes places like hospitals, schools, laboratories, daycare and nursing homes, and jobs that require the worker to be outside. Exposure can include:
- Bodily fluids, like blood
- Plants, mold and fungi
- Insects who sting or bite
- Viruses or bacteria
These are the hidden hazards that sometimes we don’t pay attention to until it’s too late. While at work, you body can become strained by your body’s positions throughout the day or the type or work you do, like lifting or repetitive movement. A great example is carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Poorly-fitted workstations and desk equipment, like chairs, that keep your body in an awkward position and give you poor posture
- Awkward, repetitive movements
- Using too much force, and having to do it repetitively causes more harm
- Vibration and shaking
This is another category of hazards that, like ergonomic hazards, the effects may not show up right away so you might tend to ignore until damage is done. These hazards are part of the mental and physical health of your work environment – stress that can cause short-term issues and long-term consequences.
Your workplace may have these work organization hazards:
- Too much work and too few people to do it, leading to workload, intensity and pace issues
- Lack of ability to voice concerns or have control over issues
- Harassment, sexual or otherwise
What can I do?
If you can identify a hazard listed here that exists in your workplace, contact your employer immediately and let them know. It’s better to protect yourself and your colleagues now to avoid dangerous situations that could lead to injury in the future.