Understanding Safety Hazards in the Workplace

How to Identify and Reduce Common Safety Hazards in the Workplace

You should always be on the lookout for safety hazards in the workplace. While it’s difficult to fully and completely guard against all of them, identifying common risks can help you put a good plan together to keep all of your employees as safe as possible.

It’s important to have the right information on hand to ensure you’re able to spot safety hazards before they cause harm to any of your employees. Continue reading to learn more about the most common workplace hazards and how to put the right plan together to guard against them.

6 Common Workplace Safety Hazard Types and Examples

Safety hazards in the workplace come in many different forms. While some might be a little more obvious, others can be a bit tricky to pinpoint. Here are the main types of safety hazards you should be aware of:

  1. General workplace safety hazards: These include any risk likely to cause falls, slips or trips and lead to injury, illness or even death. They’re most common on construction sites or other settings where employees must operate machinery.
  2. Biological hazards: Biohazards involve any materials or substances that could have a harmful effect on human health. While this often includes infection from viruses, it can also mean contact with bodily fluids, blood, fungus, medical waste, insects and a number of nasty toxins.
  3. Physical hazards: These pose a danger to the physical safety and well-being of your employees. They are more commonly associated with physically demanding jobs (like overexposure to sun or cold outdoor conditions), but physical hazards can affect any workplace. Noise and overly confined workspaces can also pose physical safety risks.
  4. Ergonomic hazards: Think body strain. Work environments that encourage employees to contort their bodies can lead to serious injury. This usually includes lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects, but even in office settings, spending too much time hunched over a laptop is associated with a range of ill health effects. When it comes to office ergonomics, it’s important to know how to protect your workers.
  5. Chemical hazards: It’s no secret that exposure to certain chemicals can cause serious harm. Dangerous substances can come in many different forms, including gases, liquids and solids, so they can sometimes be tough to detect with the naked eye. Potential hazards include anything from skin irritants and carcinogens to chemical fires and corrosion. Workplace hazard communications prevent employee exposure to dangerous chemical products.
  6. Psychological hazards: Because so much of people’s lives are devoted to their work, a toxic, unsupportive workplace can have consequences for mental health. Common psychological hazards include overstress and fatigue, while the more serious risks involve bullying and even physical violence.

How Do You Know if Safety Hazards are Present in Your Workplace?

It’s one thing to understand the possible safety hazards in the workplace that could put your employees at risk; it’s another thing entirely to know if you actually have a hazardous workplace. But this is the crucial step because doing so helps you better plan and create a workplace that is safer and healthier for all employees.

Some key questions to ask yourself to help decide if your workplace is hazardous:

  • Are employees frequently injured, or are they reporting an issue that’s making them concerned about their safety?
  • How often are problems arising?
  • Where in your workplace are the most common issues happening?
  • What conditions have workers brought to your attention?

How to Conduct a Safety Assessment to Identify and Correct Hazards

OK, so you’ve gathered enough information from your employees to determine that there are hazards in your workplace – now it’s time to identify them and put a course of action in place to address and correct them. Every good game plan starts by targeting the main culprits, so you should assess all past injuries, illnesses and other incidents to narrow in on the most serious hazards.

Identifying workplace hazards:

  • Safety suggestion program: Create an open forum or other channel of communication to allow employees to offer their own suggestions for improving workplace safety. Employees will feel like their opinions are valued, encouraging them to make more suggestions, and you get a raft of useful information to help guide your decisions. It’s a win-win for everybody.
  • Safety committee: A designated committee provides a more formal opportunity for all members of your organization to come together and discuss safety hazards in the workplace. An effective safety committee should be tasked with investigating accidents, taking corrective action and devising safety programs.
  • Safety meeting participation: Ask your employees to attend and participate in regular safety meetings. You can encourage more meaningful participation by asking employees to share their own workplace experiences and offer suggestions for how to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
  • Workplace evaluation: The best plans are those that are constantly evaluated and updated to account for the latest hazards. A quick daily look through all work areas can be enough to prevent major problems down the road.

OSHA Regulations to Consider

Always consider the following regulations put in place by the Occupational Safety and Healthcare Administration (OSHA) as they relate to your practice:

Workplace HazardOSHA Standard
Working with chemicalsHazard Communication Standard
Working in confined spacesConfined Spaces Standard
Loud noise in the workplaceHearing Conservation Standard
Chemical spillsEmergency Response Standard
FireEmergency Action & Fire Prevention Standard    
Hazards of machineryMachine Guarding Standard
Falling from heightsFall Protection Standard
Hazards of energy sourcesLock Out/Tag Out Standard

OSHA’s General Duty Clause outlines what employers should do to protect employees from workplace hazards.

Preparing for the Future

Health and safety always come first, but sometimes the unexpected happens. Workers’ compensation insurance is the best way to safeguard the wellness of your employees and keep your company up and running. FFVA Mutual is here to help. Do you have questions about workplace hazards, OSHA training, safety programs, drug-free workplace, fleet safety, return to work or other safety-related challenges? Simply ask a safety question and one of our expert safety consultants will get back to you with an answer!