Get safely back to business with our COVID-19 specific resources

Identifying Workplace Hazards: A Helpful Guide

Learn the types of hazards you need to carefully identify in your workplace

Get everyone on the same paperless page.
Rated 4.6/5 stars on Capterra from 76 ratings
Available on iOS, Android and Web
Get started for FREE

Published September 14th, 2020

Workplace Hazards and Risks Involved

Workplace hazards caused 5,190 workplace deaths in 2016 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is an average of 99 weekly deaths or more than 14 fatalities per day. Employers, managers, and safety officials can help prevent these deaths by establishing adequate safety protocols, hazard identification procedures, and conducting regular hazard assessments in the workplace.

What are Common Workplace Hazards?

OSHA identifies the 6 most common hazards in the workplace as follows:

  1. Safety hazards
  2. Biological hazards
  3. Chemical and dust hazards
  4. Ergonomic hazards
  5. Work organization hazards
  6. Physical hazards

  1. Safety Hazards 
    These are the most common and will be present in most workplaces at one time or another. They include unsafe conditions that can cause injury, illness and death. Safety Hazards include:

    1. Spills on floors or tripping hazards such as blocked aisles or cords running across the floor
    2. Working from heights including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
    3. Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts; guards removed or moving parts that a worker can accidentally touch
    4. Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
    5. Confined spaces
    6. Machinery-related hazards (lockout/tagout, boiler safety, forklifts, etc.)
  2. Biological Hazards
    Associated with working with animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Workers most at-risk of biological hazards include those who work in schools, daycare facilities, colleges and universities, hospitals, laboratories, emergency response, nursing homes, outdoor occupations.
    Types of biological hazards workers may be exposed to:

    • Blood and other body fluids
    • Fungi/mold
    • Bacteria and viruses
    • Plants
    • Insect bites
    • Animal and bird droppings
  3. Chemical Hazards
    Are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid or gas). Some are safer than others but, to some workers who are more sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems.
    Beware of:

    • 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
    • Pesticides
      Browse here for free safety checklists you can use to manage chemical hazards
  4. Ergonomic Hazards
    Occur when the type of work, body positions, and working conditions put 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:

    • 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

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

  5. Work Organization Hazards
    Hazards or stressors that cause stress (short term effects) and strain (long-term effects). These are the hazards associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and/or respect, etc.
    Examples of work organization hazards include:

    • Workload demands
    • Workplace violence
    • Intensity and/or pace
    • Respect (or lack of)
    • Flexibility/Control or say about things
    • Social support/relations
    • Sexual harassment
  6. Physical Hazards
    Are factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.
    Physical Hazards include:

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

What is Hazard Identification?

Hazard identification is a risk assessment practice that aims to identify and record safety risks and work hazards in order 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

How to Perform Hazard Identification?

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


Sare Hawes

SafetyCulture staff writer