Identifying Workplace Hazards
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A hazard is anything that could cause an accident or incident. Risks are everywhere and inherent in many workplaces. Problems exist when the risk becomes an actual hazard. This happens when an employee becomes exposed to a risk in a way that creates a hazard. A successful safety management program depends on spotting these hazards early, evaluating the risk and removing or controlling hazards before they are harmful.
Identifying all hazards and potential hazards at a workplace requires planning and commitment from management and the workforce.
Four basic types of workplace hazards exist: chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic.
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Chemical hazards result from chemicals that can enter the body through inhalation, skin contact, absorption, injection or ingestion. Therefore, preventing a chemical hazard incident can be achieved by controlling routes of entry into the body. Examples of this would be proper use of Personal Protective Equipment or system modification such as the use of fume hoods.
Physical hazards are conditions which exist which can result in damage to the body itself. Hazards such as excessive noise levels, vibration from tools, radiation sources, slips and falls from poor housekeeping, and exposure to temperature extremes can often have immediate and cumulative health effects. Physical hazards must be identified and addressed to ensure a safe work environment.
Biological hazards result when a living organism or its properties causes an adverse response in humans. Biological hazards in the workplace come from agents such as infectious microorganisms, allergens and toxins. Health care institutions are often at the highest risk for biological hazards such as blood-borne pathogens and tuberculosis. However, even an office building can have biological hazards such as mold or building-related illness.
Ergonomic hazards generally exist when there is a mismatch between a worker’s physical capacity and the design of a work area, equipment or tools; or the physical demands of a job. Repetition, exertion, awkward posture and vibration may cause physical injury. The solution requires fitting the job and the tools to do the job, to the worker.
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These recommendations were developed using generally accepted safety standards. Compliance with these recommendations is not a guarantee that you will be in conformance with any safety regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of your occupation or place of business. Safety and health remain your responsibility.
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