A hazard is anything in the workplace that has the potential to harm people. Hazards can include objects in the workplace, such as machinery or dangerous chemicals.
The most common and present in most workplaces at one time or another include unsafe conditions that can cause injury, illness and death, safety hazards include: Spills on floors or tripping hazards (such as blocked aisles or cords running across the floor), working from heights, including (ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area), unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts (guards removed or moving parts that a worker can accidentally touch), electrical hazards like frayed cords (missing ground pins, improper wiring) and confined spaces and machinery-related hazards (lockout/tag out, boiler safety, forklifts, etc.)
Employers have a responsibility to protect workers against health and safety hazards at work. Workers have the right to know about potential hazards and to refuse work that they believe is dangerous. Workers also have a responsibility to work safely with hazardous materials and report it immediately to their supervisor incase of a hazard. They do not need to wait for an inspection team to come by. In fact, health and safety legislation requires employees to report hazards to their supervisor.
The immediate hazard reporting process allows employees to report hazardous conditions or practices as they notice them. This procedure allows for prompt reporting and subsequent corrective action without waiting for the next round of regular inspections. To make the employees aware about the hazards at workplace and prepare them for contingency planning, the employees must be given proper training on hazards and handling of hazardous materials.
Types of Hazards at Workplace:
- Safety Hazards are unsafe working conditions that that can cause injury, illness and death. Safety hazards are the most common workplace hazards.
- Biological Hazards include exposure to harm or disease associated with working with animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Workplaces with these kinds of hazards include, but are not limited to, work in schools, day care facilities, colleges and universities, hospitals, laboratories, emergency response, nursing homes, or various outdoor occupations.
- Physical Hazards can be any factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.
- Ergonomic Hazards occur when the type of work, body positions and working conditions put a strain on your body. They are the hardest to spot since you don’t always immediately notice the strain on your body or the harm that these hazards pose. Short-term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following the exposure, but long term exposure can result in serious long-term illness.
- Chemical Hazards are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid or gas). Some are safer than others, but to some workers who are more sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems.
Remember that these lists are never ending. When you are carrying out a workplace hazard assessment, take into account these five larger categories to think of factors that may affect your workers in their particular circumstances. Train all workers in your health and safety policies to ensure they understand company expectations and their own responsibility for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.