Workplace Hazards

A comprehensive guide about different types of hazards in a workplace, how to identify them, examples of workplace hazards, how to report them, and what hazard reporting tool to use

Published 19 Jul 2021

What are Workplace Hazards?

Workplace hazards are the sources of potential harm or damage to someone or something in any work environment. It can be material or any activity that has the likelihood to cause injuries under specific conditions. It should be eliminated as soon as they are identified to prevent workplace incidents or fatalities.

6 Common Types of Hazards in the Workplace

Workplace hazards can be overlooked since the business is not aware of them. Identifying workplace safety issues can help prevent the likelihood of workplace incidents, accidents, or near-misses. OSHA identifies the 6 most common hazards in the workplace as follows:

6 Most Common Workplace Hazards

6 Most Common Workplace Hazards

Safety Hazards

A safety hazard is the most common type of hazard that is always present in a construction site. It includes unsafe working conditions that can cause injury, illness, or death. Here are the basic safety hazards in the workplace:

Biological Hazards

Biological hazards associates with working with animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Most at-risk workers include those who work in schools, daycare facilities, colleges and universities, hospitals, laboratories, emergency response, nursing homes, and outdoor occupations. Here are the types of biological hazards workers may be exposed to:

  • blood and other body fluids;
  • fungi/mold;
  • bacteria and viruses;
  • insect bites; and
  • animal and bird droppings.

Chemical Hazards

Chemical hazards are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid, or gas). Chemicals can be safer to others, but to some sensitive workers, even the most common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems. Workers should be aware of the following chemical hazards in the workplace.

  • Liquids like cleaning products, paints, acids, solvents – especially if chemicals are in an unlabeled container;
  • Vapors and fumes that come from welding or exposure to solvents;
  • Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide, and helium;
  • Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents, and explosive chemicals; and
  • Pesticides.

Browse here for free safety checklists you can use to manage chemical hazards

Ergonomic Hazards

Ergonomic hazards occur when the type of work, body positions, and working conditions put a strain on the body. They are the hardest to spot since you don’t always immediately notice the strain on the body and the harm that these hazards pose. Short-term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following exposure while long-term exposure can result in serious long-term illnesses. Ergonomic Hazards include the following:

  • Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs;
  • Frequent lifting;
  • Poor posture;
  • Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive;
  • Repeating the same movements over and over;
  • Having to frequently use too much force; and
  • Vibration.

Learn more about ergonomics in the workplace and 10 simple ergonomic principles to follow. Also, browse for these free ergonomic assessment checklists.

Work Organization Hazards

Work organization hazards are stressors that cause tension, anxiety, or strain to workers. These can be experienced in short term (stress) or long term (strain) that is associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and/or respect, etc. Here are work organization hazards examples:

  • Workload demands;
  • Workplace violence;
  • Intensity and/or pace;
  • Respect (or lack of);
  • Flexibility/Control or say about things;
  • Social support/relations; and
  • Sexual harassment.

Physical Hazards

Physical hazards are factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it. Physical Hazards include the following:

  • Radiation: including ionizing, non-ionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radio waves, etc.);
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet rays;
  • Temperature extremes – hot and cold; and
  • Constant loud noise.

Employers, managers, and safety officials can reduce common workplace hazards by establishing adequate safety protocols, hazard identification procedures, and conducting regular hazard assessments.

What is Hazard Identification?

Hazard identification is a risk assessment practice that aims to identify and record safety risks and work hazards to ensure the safety of workers and personnel. Hazard identification is usually done:

  • when new processes, equipment, and/or machinery are introduced into the standard workflow;
  • before each shift;
  • in the performance of work;
  • during formal or informal inspections; and
  • after incidents occur.

Benefits of Identifying Common Workplace Hazards

It is the employer’s responsibility to inform, educate, and train their employees about workplace hazards. It is paramount to ensure a safe and healthy environment not just for employees but for clients as well. Early detection of hazards and implementing safety practices will help the business in achieving its goals. It would also help:

  • prevent numerous work-related injuries and illnesses;
  • improve compliance with laws and regulations;
  • reduce costly repairs and unexpected damages;
  • improve employee engagement, productivity, and efficiency; and
  • boost overall business operations.

How to Identifying Hazards in the Workplace

Failure to identify hazards can often lead to serious injuries and dangers in the workplace. All safety and health programs must consistently identify and assess hazards to ensure that all workers are safe and protected.

A hazard identification procedure is done through a collaborative effort of employers and workers. A step-by-step procedure could be as follows:

  1. Gather information about existing hazards that are likely to be present in the workplace. See free hazard identification templates.
  2. Perform regular site walkthroughs to identify new hazards.
  3. Review accidents and near-miss logs to further investigate the root causes and program shortcomings. Browse free incident report templates.
  4. Identify similar trends across all incidents, illnesses and hazards recorded. Also, consider hazards that are present on non-routine jobs.
  5. Determine the level of risk, significance, and frequency of each hazard to know which needs to be prioritized. Download free risk assessment templates.

Workplace Hazard Identification Tool

A traditional pen and paper-based hazard assessment involve carrying around numerous paperwork and a camera to manually document the identified hazard in the facility. This process involves a manual compilation of gathered data that is cumbersome and prone to errors. These hassles can be avoided with iAuditor by SafetyCulture an inspection software and mobile app solutions.

With iAuditor users can perform hazard assessments quickly and accurately using a mobile device. An in-app capturing of identified hazards and assigning corrective actions to appropriate persons can streamline the reporting processes to immediately address the issues.

SafetyCulture staff writer

Carlo Sheen Escano

Carlo Sheen Escano is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture based in Makati City, Philippines. Sheen has experience in digital marketing and has been writing for SafetyCulture since 2018. His articles mainly discuss risks in the workplace and well-known safety and quality processes used to mitigate them. Furthermore, Sheen is passionate about providing insights to global customers on how technology can help them to do the best work of their lives.

Carlo Sheen Escano is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture based in Makati City, Philippines. Sheen has experience in digital marketing and has been writing for SafetyCulture since 2018. His articles mainly discuss risks in the workplace and well-known safety and quality processes used to mitigate them. Furthermore, Sheen is passionate about providing insights to global customers on how technology can help them to do the best work of their lives.