Ideally, all work environments should be perfectly safe places where employees can perform their daily activities without ever having to worry about risks and hazards. But since we live in a less than ideal world, potential hazards can be found in every work setting, even in those that seem to be risk-free. If they’re not addressed properly, workplace hazards can lead to disastrous consequences, such as equipment damages, serious injuries or even death.
Obviously, these aspects depend largely on the industry and the nature of the activity performed in each setting, so working in construction, mining, health services or manufacturing will surely expose you to greater risks than if you were working in an office. However, regardless of the industry, it’s extremely important for both employers and employees to be aware of the risks that surround them in order to take the necessary measures to reduce them and keep everyone safe.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most common workplace safety hazards, find out what they imply and how they could be addressed.
While ergonomic injuries might not seem like such a serious hazard at first glance, they can actually lead to serious health issues over time. Office workers are especially prone to these types of hazards, as they spend long hours sitting at their desks and working on a computer. However, employees in other fields of activity can also experience ergonomic injuries if their work involves sitting in an awkward posture, forceful motions, stationary positions, or repetitive movements.
One way to reduce the risk of suffering ergonomic injuries at work would be by providing the right equipment such as adjustable chairs, desks, keyboards, etc., and setting up proper workplace stations for employees. Another thing that can be done in this respect is to educate employees on how to improve their posture while working and avoid physical strain.
Slips, trips, and falls
As experts at UK Law explain, slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common causes of work accidents, and the reason for many of the compensation claims that employees make. The reason why these risks are so common is that they can happen at any time, in any work setting. It’s very easy for an employee to slip on a wet floor and get injured as a result. It’s just as common for workers to trip over objects that aren’t placed where they belong or over uneven surfaces and end up suffering concussions or broken bones.
Proper organizing of the space can significantly reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Having a safety policy in place and making sure all employees undergo health and safety training when they are hired can also help a lot in avoiding these unpleasant scenarios.
Noise hazards are not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when talking about safety risks. Indeed, the chances of someone tripping and falling or getting electrocuted seems a lot more probable and serious, but noise hazards shouldn’t be overlooked either. There are certain environments that are more prone to noise hazards than others, such as factories or building sites.
When the noise is loud enough to become a hazard for worker’s safety, there are two courses of action that can be taken: reducing noise by replacing loud equipment with quieter machines, or insolating the noise source and, when this is not an option, making sure employees use noise-canceling equipment. It’s advisable to take similar measures even for noises that don’t represent a health risk for employees, but they are irritating and can distract them from their tasks and affect their productivity.
The risk of fire is present in all work environments, no matter the industry, which is why all employers have to take extensive measures to reduce this potential hazard and train their staff on fire safety regulations. This is a very important point that must be included in the health and safety policy and special focus should be placed on it during staff training.
Good housekeeping can also reduce the risk of fire significantly, so storing chemicals safely, disposing of waste properly, and ensuring all fire exits are clear at all times are vital steps in this direction. Apart from that, it’s also necessary to have proper functioning fire protection equipment, such as fire alarms, extinguishers, or control panels, and performing regular fire drills in the workplace. Fire safety demonstrations prepare employees for worst-case scenarios, so if a fire does occur in the building, they’ll know exactly what to do to limit its spread.
Dangerous chemical substances
Dangerous chemical substances go from the commonplace cleaning products that can be found in every workplace to riskier substances such as acids, caustic substances, or heavy metals. Depending on the work environment and the type of chemicals that are present there, employees are exposed to various risks such as inhalation of toxic substances, skin irritation, or eye injuries.
The first step in reducing these risks is to have all employees undergo hazardous substances safety training, in order to learn how to identify potentially dangerous substances. It’s just as important to teach employees how to handle these chemicals properly and dispose of them safely to avoid any unforeseen events.
All companies rely on electrical supply to function, so it’s no wonder that electrical hazards are commonplace as well. Although the risk of electrocution can be more easily contained compared to other types of hazards, the fact that electric shocks can result in death stresses the need to educate employees on how to properly handle electrical installations.
Training employees on how to spot faulty electrical equipment is one of the best practices in this respect. Also, reporting electrical dangers immediately and letting a specialist handle the situation instead of allowing employees to step in is the safest thing to do.
Risks and hazards are everywhere around us, but employing proper safety measures can make work environments infinitely more secure for both employers and employees.