What Constitutes a Workplace Hazard?

Anything that has the potential to threaten the well being of an employee is considered a workplace hazard. It’s important not to ignore these or adopt a culture whereby they are not being taken seriously. This is where splitting risk hazards into categories can be beneficial. Not only will it help the employee to understand the nature of their role, it provides employers with an understanding of what safety procedures should be implemented.

As an employer it’s your responsibility to eliminate or, at the very least, minimise the number of hazards that your employees face. Ultimately, staff are the driving force of any organisation so their safety is of the utmost importance.

It’s also relatively common for employees to be unaware of the risks that they face on a daily basis. Those who haven’t encountered an accident at work before often feel like they aren’t under risk due to doing the job for a long period of time. Below we have listed what constitutes a workplace hazard and how they can be monitored and managed efficiently.

Hazardous working conditions – The working environment has a profound impact on the safety implications of an individuals job role.  Jobs that require heavy lifting, working from height and with machinery, can make for lifetime injuries if there are no proper procedures put into place. Similarly, workplaces with wet floors and objects obstructing exits can be especially hazardous.

Dangerous exposures – Those working in the oil and gas sector, manufacturing and engineering are often exposed to dangerous chemicals, radioactive materials and toxic gases. Appropriate training, signage and building maintenance can help to reduce the threat to workers. It is also essential for staff to be aware of the safety attire they are required to wear.

Ergonomic dangers – Even with jobs that require employees to sit at a desk all day, there are still hazards present. For example, repetitive motion injuries can be a significant problem and can lead to legal action if the injury is serious enough. Employees that work long hours without breaks can also experience fatigue. This can be prevented by allowing employees regular breaks and by implementing a positive safety culture to boost morale and team spirit.

Biological hazards – In the healthcare sector for example, workers are exposed to dangers such as diseases, viruses and medical waste, which can have a very detrimental effect on their overall health and well being. Employees who work with animals can also be directly exposed to the threat of being bitten or stung etc.

Social hazards – People often associate workplace hazards solely with physical obstacles. Those working with the public, including retail staff and community-based workers visiting people’s homes, face the risk of finding themselves in difficult situations. Certain employees such as charity and social workers often deal with vulnerable individuals, who therefore, face the risk of encountering threatening, challenging behaviour.