Hazards exist everywhere in the workplace, so it’s important to educate yourself and address the ones that could potentially be harmful to your staff and customers. By identifying the hazards, you can control and eliminate them, preventing accidents, injuries and property damage.
When you have a business, your first step should always be doing a full risk assessment of all work environments and any equipment you use. It’s important to be as thorough as possible, so you can protect your staff against hazards they may be unaware of. Here we are going to look at the 6 main health and safety hazard categories that will exist in your business.
Safety hazards are unsafe working conditions in your business that could cause injury, illness and death. These are the most common workplace hazards, and can include:
- Anything that can cause trips and falls, like cords running across the floor or ice.
- Anything that can cause a fall when working from heights, such as ladders and scaffolding.
- Unguarded machinery and moving machinery.
- Electrical hazards like frayed wires or improper wiring.
- Confined spaces.
Biological hazards are those which can expose your staff to harm or diseases. These are most common in businesses like day cares, colleges, hospitals and nursing homes. The types of hazards your staff may be exposed to here are:
- Blood and other bodily fluids.
- Fungi and mould.
- Bacteria, viruses and diseases.
- Insects bites.
- Animal and bird droppings.
Physical hazards can be anything within the immediate environment in your business that can harm somebody without them having to touch it. This includes:
- Radiation (microwaves, radio waves, etc.).
- High exposure to the sun or ultraviolet rays.
- Temperature extremes, whether it be hot or cold.
- Constant loud noise that can damage hearing.
These hazards occur when the type of work your staff have to do or the working conditions they are in put a strain on their body. They are the hardest health and safety problems to spot because the strain on the body isn’t immediately noticeable, so neither is the harm that these hazards pose. Short-term exposure to them may result in a few sore muscles for a few days, but having long-term exposure can cause serious illnesses that are long-term too. Environmental hazards include:
- Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs.
- Frequent heavy lifting.
- Poor posture when sitting at computers and desks, or when lifting.
- Awkward movements, especially if they must be done repetitively.
- Having to use too much force, especially if it has to be done frequently.
- Vibration from machinery or heavy equipment.
Any chemicals or chemical preparation in a business can present health and safety problems for your staff, whether it be a solid, liquid or a gas. Some chemicals are safer than others, but some of your staff may be sensitive to chemicals. So even the most common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation and breathing problems. In your business, you need to be aware of:
- Liquids like cleaning products, paints, solvents and acids. This is particularly true if the chemicals are in an unlabelled container.
- Vapours and fumes from any type of chemicals used in your business.
- Gases like propane, carbon monoxide, acetylene and helium.
- Flammable materials such as solvents, gasoline and other explosive chemicals.
- Pesticides that may have been used duringprofessional pest control services.
These are the hazards or stressors that can cause stress as a short-term effect, and strain as a long-term effect. Organisational hazards are normally associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and problems with authority and respect. Examples are:
- Demanding workloads.
- Intensity and the pace of how quickly work needs to be done.
- Respect, or lack thereof.
- Control or being able to have a say about things.
- Social support or relations.
- Sexual harassment.
These lists are non-exhaustive. There’s a whole realm of possibilities when it comes to health and safety in your business. So when you are completing a workplace hazard assessment, you need to think about these six categories, and what factors your staff may be affected by under their particular circumstances.
If you have staff or work along or are isolated visually and auditorily from others, you must remember that they will need to be treated differently as lone workers. They have their own set of risks when it comes to health and safety.