6 Common Types of Hazards to Prevent in the Workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 26, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The most productive workplaces are often those which reduce stress and safety hazards for its employees. Working environments that implement protections for their employees' mental, physical, and emotional health can achieve a greater sense of job satisfaction and productivity. Understanding all the hazards that can be present in a workplace is key to preventing danger and ensuring that yourself and other employees can stay safe and happy at work.

In this article, we explore six types of hazards in the workplace and explain ways to manage them effectively.

What are workplace hazards?

Workplace hazards are the risks present in a working environment, which may harm or injure employees without a process to manage them. There are several types of workplace hazards that may present danger to employees in physical or even emotional ways. One of the primary steps in mitigating hazard risks is to acknowledge that they exist and consider ways to manage or avoid them. Processes for helping staff to avoid hazards can mean developing policies or training programs to keep them safe.

Related: How to Become a Safety Engineer (With Definition and Steps)

6 common types of hazards in the workplace

Many types of hazards in the workplace present risks because of the use of machinery, materials, chemicals, or risk factors unique to a particular working environment. Below are descriptions of some of the most common hazards at work with examples of ways you can manage them:

1. Workplace safety hazards

General workplace safety hazards are those which relate to the physical working environment. These can be structural elements of a workplace building, vehicles or machines that employees operate, or the overall conditions in which they work. Hazards such as these may exist because of some of the following elements:

Workplace navigation

Whether an employee operates machinery or handles hazardous materials in their work, there can still be hazards that present potential danger in their work environment. By controlling these hazards and implementing training procedures, managers can avoid injuries caused by doorways, ladders, weather, or confined spaces. Training in safety policies can benefit teams by ensuring that all employees understand guidelines established to prevent accidents that lead to injury.

Workplace vehicles and machinery

Vehicles in the workplace can present potential danger to employees if they drive or operate them improperly. You can help to mitigate workplace injury as a result of using machinery or vehicles by making sure that anyone who operates them undergoes sufficient training and adheres to strict safety guidelines.

In some cases, there may be provincial or federal policies in place to regulate machine operation in workplaces. Another effective method for preventing workplace injury around machines is to implement incident reporting to record the details of any incidents for future reference.

Related: How to Become an Occupational Health Nurse (With Steps)

2. Ergonomic hazards

Ergonomic hazards are those which relate to an employee's daily activity, particularly the duties that may have an effect on their physical well-being. Some of the most common workplace activities which may lead to ergonomic hazards include:

Tool use

Using tools is a critical element to many work environments, but these can cause injury when employees aren't aware of the safest practices and protective procedures. Implementing written safety instructions in or near the worksite can be an effective way of avoiding tool-related risks.

These pieces of information can include helpful images or diagrams to help employees understand the best tool-use procedures for a safe environment. As with other types of hazards, offering comprehensive training is another highly effective way to reduce risk. Some workplace tools which can cause injuries include:

  • factory elements like conveyor belts or engines

  • complex and heavy machinery like cranes or forklifts

  • hand tools like saws or hammers

Shift changes

Sometimes long shifts or sudden changes to rosters can contribute to a less healthy working environment. This can be both in terms of physical health and mental or emotional wellbeing, when it impacts an employee's personal life. Effective shift management can help to avoid these instances and relieve some stress that long or rapidly changing shifts can cause. Effective communication between management and staff can also be a vital method of mitigating issues arising from shifts. By inviting open communication, managers can respond to their employees' needs and better distribute working hours.

Manual labour

Working in manual labour, where employees spend time pulling, pushing, carrying, or holding objects, can potentially result in injury if management and staff don't properly observe safety practices. Management are responsible for supervising the activity of employees, but using practices that avoid injury depends on the employees who perform these physical duties.

For instance, a manager may help prevent injuries from lifting heavy objects by implementing a weight limit for objects employees might lift in the warehouse. If an employee disregards these limits, they may injure themselves by attempting to lift an object which is too heavy.

Providing frequent and mandatory training to staff is an effective way to prevent such injury. Training sessions such as these may even cover the best ways to recognize and manage exhaustion, or ensure employees stay sufficiently hydrated throughout the day.

3. Psychosocial hazards

Psychosocial hazards are those which may cause emotional or mental distress as a result of the conditions of a working environment. Some types of psychosocial hazards may include:

Bullying or workplace violence

This category includes any form of harassment or assault which may occur in a work environment. Preventing bullying or violence is commonly the manager's responsibility, but other employees may also be effective in preventing such occurrences. Management may effectively manage these hazards by implementing a process for reporting any form of harassment or abuse, anonymously or otherwise. This is another form of hazard that managers can mitigate by creating communication channels for employees to use to ensure their own safety and that of their colleagues.

Stress

Stress is a common workplace hazard, and can arise from a range of causes, including ineffective communication, poor management, or excessive workloads. Management and leaders can avoid making their staff stressed by conducting regular reviews which gather feedback from employees. In this process, staff can express if any elements of their workplace cause them unnecessary stress. Then, managers can respond by changing policies or practices to relieve this unhealthy stress in employees.

4. Biologial hazards

Biological hazards are organic elements that have the potential to harm employees. Such hazards can include mould, viruses or bacteria, and hazards due to insect, plant, or animal life. There is a range of tactics for preventing these hazards depending on the nature of the organic factor creating the risk. For instance, to prevent illness from exposure to mould, mandatory training may educate staff on how to react if they identify mould in the workplace.

Another effective tactic is to implement additional hygiene practices, such as hand washing procedures or cleaning rosters. There are commonly provincial or federal biological hazard management standards in place. Adhering to these standards can be an effective way to mitigate exposure to hazardous organic material and ensure a safe working environment.

Related: How to Conduct a Risk Assessment (Tips and Definition)

5. Chemical hazards

Many working environments involve the use of chemicals to perform required duties. Such chemicals may range from hair dye to cleaning products, to flammable liquids. Understanding the correct procedures for handling, processing, and storing these chemical hazards is fundamental to a safer working environment, which requires them. Chemical hazards can cause injury, illness, fire, or property damage if employees use them unsafely.

Management can control the handling of these hazards by implementing thorough safety training. In some environments, it may be the sole responsibility of particular employees to supervise the handling of these chemicals in hazardous environments. These safety professionals ensure that employees use the right protective equipment, such as gloves or safety goggles, while interacting with chemical hazards. Some chemicals which could be hazardous in a workplace include:

  • reactive liquids

  • asbestos

  • oxidizing liquids

  • compressed gas

  • corrosive liquids

  • dust

  • diesel exhaust

  • bleach

  • fluids used in metalworking

  • lead

  • peroxides

  • toxic materials

  • chlorine

  • pesticides

6. Physical hazards

Physical hazards are some of the most common hazard types in workplaces. These are hazards intrinsic to many work environments, and may include:

Temperature hazards

Extremely hot or cold temperatures can present a risk to an employee's health. Heat hazards can include burns, heat stroke, or heat exhaustion, while cold temperature hazards include hypothermia or frostbite. Managers can protect staff from these hazards by providing the correct gear for handling extreme temperatures and training staff in the safety protocols for working in environments where they're present.

Air quality

The quality of air in a workplace can present health risks, such as dust or gases. Proper air quality control is possible through adhering to health and safety guidelines, which regulate the use of ventilation systems, protective wear, and the storage of chemicals and gases. These regulations work to protect the breathing, eyes, and skin of employees who work in potentially hazardous environments.

Noise

There are many elements of work environments that may present a noise hazard to employees, putting their hearing at risk. These may be vehicles, machinery, or substances like breaking glass or releasing steam. Managers can mitigate these noise risks primarily through ensuring that staff wears protective equipment such as earmuffs.

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