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Know your Hazards

Know your hazards

 

Hazards exist in every workplace, but how do you know which ones have the most potential to cause harm? By identifying hazards in your workplace, you will be better prepared to control or eliminate them and prevent accidents, injuries and property damage.

The first step to a safe work place is to conduct a thorough hazard assessment of your work environment and equipment, if you have any concerns but don’t feel confident to do this then you can raise this with your local DSO (Dept Safety Officer) or contact your Unison H & S rep who can come to your workplace and carry out an inspection on your behalf.

 

If you would like to have a go at looking at risks in your workplace then we have a sample template you can download here. In a hazard assessment, it is important to be as thorough as possible because after all, you can’t protect yourself against hazards you are unaware of. Below is a list of six categories that you should consider with examples.

 

Safety Hazards:

Safety Hazards are unsafe working conditions that that can cause injury, illness and death. Safety hazards are the most common workplace hazards.

They include:

  • Anything that can cause spills or tripping such as cords running across the floor or ice
  • Anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
  • Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch
  • Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
  • Confined spaces

 

Biological 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.

Types of things you may be exposed to include:

  • Blood and other body fluids
  • Fungi/mold
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Plants
  • Insect bites
  • Animal and bird droppings

 

Physical Hazards:

Physical hazards can be any factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.

They include:

  • Radiation: including ionizing, non-ionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radio waves, etc.)
  • High exposure to sunlight / ultraviolet rays
  • Temperature extremes – hot and cold
  • Constant loud noise – noise from machinery or large groups of people

 

 

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.

Ergonomic Hazards include:

  • Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs
  • Frequent lifting
  • Poor posture
  • Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive
  • Having to use too much force, especially if you have to do it frequently
  • Vibration

 

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.

Beware of:

  • Liquids like cleaning products, paints, acids,solvents – ESPECIALLY if chemicals are in an unlabeled container!
  • Vapors and fumes that come from welding or exposure to solvents
  • Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide and helium
  • Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents, and explosive chemicals
  • Pesticides

 

Work Organization Hazards:

Hazards or stressors that cause stress (short term effects) and strain (long term effects).  These are hazards associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and/or respect, etc.

Examples include:

  • Workload demands
  • Workplace violence
  • Intensity and/or pace
  • Respect (or lack thereof)
  • Flexibility
  • Control or say about things
  • Social support or relations
  • Sexual harassment

 

Remember that these lists are non-exhaustive.  When you are completing a workplace hazard assessment, take into account these six larger categories to think of factors that may affect you in your particular circumstances.  

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