The risk factors and the types of hazards in the workplace vary in every type of work situation (based on factors including the type of work, who is involved and the specific workplace and its conditions), and sometimes, accidents just happen. However, if you understand what the most common workplace hazards are, you can work toward reducing and eliminating the risks posed to you and your employees, and thereby help to prevent future incidents and emergencies from occurring.
Are you aware of the different types of hazards in your workplace? And if your employees, contractors, or volunteers work alone, are you aware of the potential hazards in their workplaces? Do you have a plan to mitigate them?
In this article, we will examine a common list of hazards, identify examples of hazards in specific job roles, and offer a solution to help eliminate potential hazards in the workplace.
The Six Most Common Workplace Hazards
Though the degrees of their severity vary, every workplace has hazards. A workplace hazard is anything that can potentially cause harm to a person, and there are six common categories or types of hazards in the workplace; they include safety, physical, chemical, biological, psychosocial, and ergonomic hazards. Below are definitions and examples of each type of hazard.
Safety workplace hazards are any factors that create unsafe working conditions. For example, working near hot surfaces or with hot liquids can cause burns and skin damage, operating dangerous machinery can induce serious injury, working with clients can lead to violent assault, contact with live wires can cause electrocution, and slick floors can lead to slipping and falling.
The physical type of hazards are environmental conditions that can harm employees, sometimes without necessarily coming into contact with the person. For example, working at heights could lead to serious falls, working near loud noises could lead to hearing loss, and radiation exposure could lead to cancer and other serious diseases.
Chemical hazards are substances that can cause harm to health from direct contact usually through skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Examples of chemical hazards include skin irritants, carcinogens, and respiratory sensitisers, meanwhile, examples of physicochemical hazards include chemical explosions or reactions, fire, and corrosion (1).
Biological hazards can cause adverse health impacts to anyone who comes into contact with them. Examples of biological hazards include bacteria, viruses, toxic mould and algae, diseases from animals, sewage, mosquito-borne viruses, skin infections, and skin-penetrating injuries (2).
Psychosocial workplace hazards are factors in the management or design of work that increase work-related stress and can have adverse effects on mental and/or physical wellbeing. Examples of psychosocial hazards include poor management support, high pressure or demands, poor organisational justice such as unfairness or bias, workplace bullying, and remote or isolated work (3).
Ergonomic hazards are physical factors in the workplace that can cause musculoskeletal injuries and/or long-term disorders. Manual handling like lifting, pushing, and pulling, equipment layout and operation, lighting, and workstation design and height are all areas where ergonomic hazards may be concerned (4).
Implementing Safety Policies & Procedures to Eliminate Workplace Hazards
Each category included in the list of hazards above is serious and has the potential to cause you and your employees significant health issues, injuries, and in some cases, fatalities, if they are not properly addressed.
For this reason, health and safety managers must have safety policies and procedures in place that mitigate and/or eliminate all types of hazards in the workplace, wherever and whenever possible.
At a minimum, managers should ensure that regular and thorough hazard audits are completed, that all employees have a simple and effective way to report hazards, near-misses, incidents, and injuries to managers, and that there are proper safeguards in place to monitor and manage the health and safety of all employees at all times.
Click here to learn more about why it is important to report hazards in the workplace.
Using a comprehensive employee safety solution, such as SHEQSY, is an example of how managers can effectively safeguard employees with real-time monitoring, hazard and incident reporting, activity countdown timers, periodic check-ins and simple duress activation.
Potential Hazards in the Workplace for Lone Workers
Employees, contractors, and volunteers who work alone or in isolated environments face higher health and safety risks than those who do not, simply because they do not have access to immediate back-up support or supervision from managers or other colleagues.
If your organisation employs lone workers in any capacity (including staff who only work alone occasionally), then it is important to give your lone worker safety policies and procedures immediate attention to ensure your workers are protected.
Common examples of lone workers include, but are not limited to, community nurses and social workers, field workers, plant operators, delivery truck drivers, commercial cleaners, and real estate agents.
If you are unsure if your organisation employs lone or isolated workers and requires a lone worker solution, click here to learn more.
Examples of Common Workplace Hazards for Lone Workers
To provide further insight into the high risks of working alone, consider nurses who carry out appointments inside patients’ homes and utility service providers who install and repair infrastructure.
Healthcare workers are already at high risk of experiencing aggression and violence in the workplace (5), but working alone with patients in their homes increases the risks substantially. The uncontrolled workplace environment and absence of normal supervision and back-up support exposes in-home nurses to a variety of unpredictable physical and safety hazards. Common examples include experiencing aggressive and violent behaviour from patients, family members, or their pets and the risk of being involved in traffic accidents traveling to and from appointments
Utility service providers who travel to different locations to install and repair technology are also faced with a variety of workplace hazards, including being electrocuted, falling off ladders from heights, and getting stuck in confined spaces.
Whenever employees work alone, they are faced with a unique and unpredictable set of potential hazards. As their manager, it is your responsibility to make sure they are safe.
You can prepare your lone workers for any risks or incidents that may arise during working hours by equipping them with a lone worker safety solution to share their location, report hazards, check-in and activate a duress alarm.
Using SHEQSY to Safeguard Against Common Workplace Hazards
Using a comprehensive, cloud-based lone worker safety solution is the easiest and most effective way to safeguard your lone workers in real-time. With SHEQSY, you can keep track of workplace hazards and send help immediately when an injury, illness, or any other type of emergency occurs.
SHEQSY also integrates Bluetooth wearables and handheld satellite devices to deliver a truly enterprise-grade safety solution.
Via the smartphone app, employees can report workplace hazard information by sending photos and videos to their managers in real-time, from anywhere. Reports are instantly uploaded to the SHEQSY dashboard, along with the employees’ GPS location, job details, pre-start form answers, checklist responses and date and time stamps.
From SHEQSY’s user-friendly dashboard, organisations can effortlessly visualise, monitor, manage, and report on lone worker activities in real-time, and duress alerts can be sent directly to managers via SMS and email or to SHEQSY’s A1-graded 24/7 monitoring centre.
Learn More About SHEQSY
Organisations worldwide rely on SHEQSY to protect their employees against workplace hazards, streamline management, and comply with health and safety requirements.
Are you ready to safeguard your employees? Contact SHEQSY now to schedule a demo and start your 30-day free trial.