Hazards can have negative effects at the workplace for worker and company productivity. In addition to just productivity, companies who have serious issues with hazards can risk bad PR or loss of morale.
Types of workplace hazards include chemical, ergonomic, physical, psychosocial and general workplace. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate the risks from these hazards such as through planning, training and monitoring.
Chemicals at the workplace can range from cleaning products to chemical production. When chemicals are not used, stored or handled properly, they can cause injury, illness, fire or even explosions at the extreme. Ways that chemicals can harm workers can include contact with the skin, inhalation or ingestion; the impact can take place immediately or overtime over prolonged exposure.
One way to prevent chemical hazards from negatively impacting your workplace, ensure all workers and supervisors are property trained, including on WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), or MSDSs (material safety data sheets).
Ergonomic hazards are present in work environments from offices to construction sites; this includes injuries or strains from repetitive strains, strains from lifting/pushing/pulling, standing, shiftwork or slips and falls. Ways to manage ergonomic hazards include making sure that workers have the right equipment and tools to do their jobs comfortably, designing the workplace to be more ergonomic, and empowering workers to perform exercises or stretches to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.
Physical hazards are substances or activities that threaten your physical safety such as conditions that can cause injury, illness and death. The most common physical hazards are temperature, air quality, mould, noise or radiation. These hazards are particularly relevant for workers who work in industrial environments, such as in oil and gas, mining, construction and more.
In these environments, companies, supervisors and workers need to work closely together to manage the risks. Companies must ensure the right equipment, monitoring and training is provided, and workers have to proactively communicate with each other.
Psychosocial hazards are stress, violence or bullying in the workplace environment. This can involve how workers interact with other workers and/or emotional responses workers have that negatively impact a worker’s productivity or effectiveness. Companies should have resources or a department that workers can contact if they are experiencing stress, harassment or other concerns. Supervisors and managers should have regular meetings with workers on a one-on-one basis where workers can voice their concerns.
Workplace hazards include confined spaces or ventilation, temperature, or heights and particularly apply to work environments in oil and gas, mining, construction or other industrial environments. Environments with persistent safety hazards should require detailed safety planning and may even require emergency response teams to be on standby. Workers in workplaces with an abundant amount of hazards should get regular safety training, have strict safety procedures and regular training drills.
No workplace is completely hazard-free, and industrial environments are particularly risky. However, it’s in the best interest of the employer, supervisors and workers to keep everyone safe and healthy.