Workplace hazards fall into six different categories, according to OSHA. They are: safety, biological, physical, ergonomic, chemical and work organization hazards. Employers and employees can protect themselves by recognizing all six.
Safety hazards are the most common, and can occur in any type of workplace. They include many common hazards that can cause injury, illness or death, such as spills on floors, unguarded machinery, electrical hazards and working from heights, among others. Safety hazards are easily avoided with environmental awareness and safety mindfulness.
Physical hazards are elements within the environment that can physically harm the body without touching it, including radiation, exposure to sunlight, temperature extremes and loud noise. Though often invisible, employers and employees should be aware of physical hazards, and take the necessary steps to prevent them. This includes wearing appropriate clothing, sun screen and ear plugs.
Chemical hazards are present whenever a worker is exposed to chemicals in any form, including solids, liquids and gases. Be aware of all liquid solutions, vapors and fumes, gases, flammable materials and pesticides in the workplace, and make sure hazards are labeled appropriately.
Biological hazards are present whenever workers interact with people, animals and plants. These type of hazards include exposure to blood or other bodily fluids, bacteria, insect bites and animal droppings.
Ergonomic hazards are associated with work conditions. They occur when the type of work, posture and working conditions put strain on the body, and include improperly adjusted work stations, frequent lifting, repetitive movement and vibration.
Work organization hazards are associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of respect and other stressors. They include workload demands, workplace violence, sexual harassment, social support and flexibility. Work organization hazards can be avoided through strong communication between supervisors and employees, and maintaining mutual respect among coworkers. They can often be resolved through the human resources department.
Understanding and recognizing the six types of common workplace safety hazards can keep you, and your coworkers, safe.