Every workplace has a unique set of hazards that may expose employers and their workers to serious problems. For this purpose, employers need to assess and examine the workplace to identify any such hazard and implement vital control measures to mitigate the risk of harm.
Numerous types of hazards can impact the physical and mental well-being of individuals. But for the scope of this blog, we will explore the physical hazards, how they originate, and affect workers or anyone.
What are Physical Hazards?
Physical hazards are the type of occupational hazards that can cause harm without touching an individual. They are classified as environmental factors that can harm an employee. People in numerous environments can be exposed to physical hazards. These include construction, demolition, or excavation.
It is seen that almost 74,00 work-related injuries and illnesses occur in the construction sector alone, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Most of these accidents or incidents occurring in the construction environment are physical hazards. These include slips, trips, or falls, working at height hazards, air, electricity, or noise hazards.
This puts a legal duty on employers to undertake a thorough examination of their work environments to identify any health hazards and implement vital control measures to protect their staff members and workers.
Common Examples/Sources of Physical hazards
Below are some of the common examples of physical hazards that employers and employees need to keep in mind:
Falls are one of the common causes of workplace injuries and fatalities specifically in the healthcare, construction, building, cleaning, or maintenance sector. It is estimated that nearly 261,930 working days are lost in private and government sectors and around 798 workers die due to fall injuries at work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The fall hazards occur due to floor contamination, obstacles, inappropriate footwear, or any other issue. Employers need to conduct an adequate risk assessment to examine any risk to their health and safety.
Electric shocks, burns, and explosions are some common electrical hazards that can lead to serious injuries and fatalities. Most construction workers, electricians, plumbers, or builders may expose to electric shocks which can cost them their lives.
Employers need to seriously examine this risk in their workplaces and provide sufficient electrical safety training to their staff so that the risk is minimized in the work environment.
Every workplace is at risk of fire. The fire hazards can be devastating both to the organization and its employees and workers. To control and mitigate the risk of fires at work, employers need to conduct a sufficient fire risk assessment.
Adequate fire risk assessment training will also help them examine the potential sources of fires within their workplace or organization. It will also help employers prevent themselves and their staff from severe fire injuries and fatalities.
Machines are common in most workplaces like construction, agriculture, warehouses, or manufacturing and can pose serious risks to employees if not used correctly.
Many machines involve moving parts, sharp boundaries, hot surfaces, or other possible hazards resulting in blisters, cuts, wounds, or other injuries if used unsafely.
Employers must protect their workers from any kind of work equipment hazards, conduct a thorough risk assessment to analyze the condition of the tools and equipment, and proper equipment maintenance safety training for the workers to mitigate the risk.
5. Confined Spaces
Working in confined spaces poses serious health risks to employees. They can be dangerous due to reduced oxygen levels, excess oxygen resulting in fires or explosions, or the loss of consciousness.
Confined space work not only exposes workers to risk but also to those who try to rescue them resulting in numerous fatalities. People mostly at the risk of confined space hazards are mine workers, workers working in tunnels, cold storage, wells, etc.
Employers are responsible to provide adequate confined space training to the workers if it is necessary to work inside of them to ensure they work safely.
Noise also fairly comes as a common workplace hazard. Industrial hearing loss is considered to be a common occupational injury. It is estimated that nearly 22 million workers are affected by noise at work, costing businesses $242 million annually to reimburse workers for hearing loss disability.
Workers exposed to such risks need to have adequate knowledge and skills to work safely. Employers also need to take account of any such issue and provide proper personal protective equipment to work safely.
Last but not least on the list is extreme temperature conditions which are also a common physical hazard resulting in serious health issues for the workers. Workers working in extremely freezing or cold weather conditions can encounter various diseases like hypothermia, trench foot, or reduced mental alertness.
While working in hot weather can result in dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion, or dizziness. Employers must keep a close eye on any such health risk to their workers and provide them with sufficient tools, equipment, guidance, and training to work safely.
Health Effects of Physical Hazards
As mentioned above physical hazards can expose employers and their workers to a wide range of health hazards ranging from cuts, wounds, and burns, to unconsciousness, dizziness, or hearing loss. Managers and supervisors, managing such work areas have a legal and moral duty to prevent their workers from these risks to ensure a safe and secure workplace.
There are numerous sources of potential physical hazards affecting an individual’s health directly. Those working under such conditions and environments must have vital information, tools, equipment, and safety measures to undertake the work safely.