Understanding Health Hazards in Workplaces

A workplace hazard is any situation in the working environment that causes harm, damage, or health-related issues.

Examples of worksite hazards are:

  • Wet slippery floors,
  • Electricity,
  • Hard rock mining,
  • Chemicals like benzene,
  • Knives, and
  • Workplace bullying.

Health hazards in workplaces increase the likelihood of harm to all employees and their managers.

But the probability of the risk will depend on how exposed one is, means of exposure, and how severe the effect is.

Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency has come up with regulations to ensure employees’ rights at workplaces are upheld.

How to identify Health Hazards in Workplaces

In most workplaces, health hazards are identified after an audit is conducted, be it internal or external.

In most cases, they are tabled out by consultants or auditors whose mandate is to check whether the business operations conform to the set rules and regulations.

Common workplace hazards include:

  • Squeezed spaces,
  • Working at height,
  • Poor house organization,
  • Electricity,
  • Chemicals, and

Some of the best practices to reduce potential hazards include proper work habits, offering regular training for employees, and proper handling of work equipment.

Business owners are advised not only to focus on using the available resources to maximize profits but also to ensure workers’ health and safety.

They also need to allocate funds for any hazardous situations that may arise at any given time.

Globally, organizations like The National Safety Council monitor employee wellness and deal with health hazards in workplaces.

Below is a list of the various hazard common in worksites;

  1. Improper house organization

This is one of the common hazards encountered in many workplaces.

Overloading of warehouses may limit the effectiveness of sprinklers during emergencies.

Dripping water from faucets may also stagnate on floors and cause slides and falls at workplaces.

In case this occurs, staff must take action, not wait for cleaning experts— except when it requires special attention, then the relevant supervisors and managers should be consulted.

Another commonly reported case of a poor house organization is careless storage. Often, offices and workplaces forget about their staff’s safety and health and pile up rooms to levels that may risk employee health.

Employers must reassess the dangers and leave ample room for storage. Various studies have shown that in cases of blackouts, when objects can’t be traced, filled rooms can pose hazards to workers.

  1. Working in high places

Research on employee health and safety reported that 14 percent of deaths in 2014 resulted from low falls. According to OSHA rules and regulations, the use of ladders and scaffolding has been cited as the most common cause of this type of hazard.

A senior consultant in Arizona also highlighted that the dangers of working in high places result from a misunderstanding of safety measures among top managers. Employers may not see the need to provide appropriate protection gears or monitor whether they are in good condition, or are worn properly by workers.

Top officials must now develop a well written proactive protection procedure that covers the company’s full risks.

Some suggestions include:

  • Finding all possible areas where fall protection is applicable and offer employees training from time to time. To achieve this, both the employer and juniors must be willing to conduct thorough inspections.
  • If possible, the safety official’s opinions are included when planning for a design or buying equipment as a safety measure. This will help the employer cut off costs incurred on penalty charges and save time conducting many audits.
  • Managers are advised to provide necessary protective gear and identify areas requiring the installation of anchor points and those that already have. Similarly, employees are reminded to wear protective gear and ensure they are hooked when working in high places.
  • Job sites with sharp objects like welding places or chemical industries may wear out the gear so workers should keep an eye on their safety attire.

When it comes to cost, studies have shown that building a platform with appropriate rails with a swing gate just before the fixed ladder may be cheaper than using fall protection equipment.

An employee working at height.

  1. Forklifts

Forklifts health hazards in workplaces are caused by pressure from senior staff.

When the pressure to deliver increases, workers are forced to pace up at the expense of quality and personal safety.

The result of a rush may be detrimental; for example, an overloading driver can easily cause an accident. Mistakes occur, but how the employers deal with the whole situation can cause further problems.

Instead of checking the root cause of the problem, bosses blame the victims, which may further change their work attitude.

In an accident scenario, bosses are advised to dig down into the cause of the problem and act accordingly.

The most appropriate way to deal with this is to offer a re-training to the driver and ensure daily checks and truck maintenance.

  1. Chemicals

Chemicals, even in small quantities, should be handled with great care to prevent unnecessary damages. These products are also costly, so companies that rely on them must develop a control system.

According to OSHA, workers should be taught well on how to handle these hazardous materials, by offering training on:

  • The importance of checking expiry dates
  • Using them safely
  • Disposing of them properly after use.

Buying excess harmful substances and storing them is against the OSHA rules and regulations. The disposal for hazardous wastes is expensive and is regulated by stringent laws.

Another common way chemicals cause harm is when moved in containers. Safety rules still apply no matter how experienced you may be; for example, you must label the container under the OSHA safety standards.

  1. Squeezed spaces

Hazards encountered in confined places can be uncovered if the manager does a complete risk assessment.

Squeezed spaces can increase the risks of accidents, especially if people must move in these areas while carrying heavy objects.

Such a situation can lead to dropping objects and foot injuries. Leaders must ensure proper spacing and lighting to prevent accidents.

Health Hazards in Workplaces: Which Areas Should Employers Focus on?

There are many hazards in different workplaces, and the NSC has come up with a list of areas to make the identification process simpler.

Major on these areas when identifying health hazards in workplaces:

  1. Training

Without proper training, the workers may not know all the safety procedures to follow at the worksite.

Safety training should be done when onboarding employees and when the manager is making a reminder of the occupational health and safety guidelines.

The training session can also be done as a precautionary measure after identifying new health hazards in workplaces.

Regular training of employees should happen across different departments to keep the entire team alert.

The purpose of training depends on the workers’ situation, after which you can carry out an audit to see its effectiveness.

  1. Personal protective equipment

The provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the employer’s duty. Ensure all employees receive the right PPE and follow best practices during use.

After determining which PPE matters, an employer must provide the right sizes and teach staff how to wear and remove them.

Managers should also assign supervisors to ensure the workers wear PPEs throughout the work period.

Lastly, workers must take good care of the gears to avoid damages resulting from poor handling of the PPE.

  1. Job Site Culture

The working culture of employees may be the cause of health hazards in workplaces.

Workers can get careless and indulge in unsafe activities simply because their senior staff once did it. Employers and seniors must lead by example.

Cultivate a culture of safety and awareness, and remind each worker that occupational safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Such an environment experiences fewer accidents because everyone is pro-actively watching out for themselves and others.

  1. Lack of resources

Many small firms do not have enough resources to ensure the safety of their employees. Such businesses put little or no investment in safety training and protective equipment thus exposing their workers to different injury risks.

Managers should seek help from relevant institutions that provide the safety equipment at affordable rates or free.

Fire insurance companies may give out fire extinguishers at extremely low cost or even free to these businesses, depending on their terms.

Employers should also consult with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

to avoid incidents of further charges.

Reducing Health Hazards in Workplaces

Every business is profit-oriented, and employees are the key drivers. Therefore, their health and safety should be the company’s priority.

Identifying and dealing with health hazards in workplaces is the best way to ensure a safe working environment.

Common workplace hazards include squeezed spaces, working at height, house organization, electricity, chemicals, and forklifts.

Some of the best practices to reduce potential hazards include proper work habits, offering regular training, and proper handling of work equipment.