Safety in the workplace is something we all value and must take seriously. Identifying potential hazards in the workplace is the first and most important step in protecting both employees and companies from safety risks and ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.
Everyone, from small business owners to large employers, needs to know how to identify occupational hazards in their workplace and put in place the necessary measures to reduce and eliminate those risks.
What are occupational hazards?
Occupational hazards are potential risks that can cause physical or property damage. These hazards can range from minor injuries to serious illnesses and even fatalities. Some common workplace hazards are slips, trips and falls; hazardous materials and substances; machinery, tools and equipment; noise; violence; ergonomic stress, etc.
Identification of workplace hazards
To identify hazards in the workplace, employers must adopt a methodical approach. The process of identifying workplace hazards includes:
1. Analyse the activity: First, employers must analyse the activity that takes place in the workplace. This involves knowing the types of tasks being performed and the risks associated with those tasks. It also means being aware of any changes that may increase or create new risks. It is about analysing what any small change in the way you work means.
2. Assessing the environment: Once employers have a better understanding of the activities taking place in the workplace, they should assess the environment to identify any potential hazards or risks. This includes examining the physical environment, existing processes and procedures, and the ability of workers to control their environment.
3. Risk identification: Once the work activities and environment have been controlled, it is time to identify potential risks. This involves examining the possible causes of accidents, injuries or other health and safety incidents in the workplace. It also involves considering what controls may be needed to reduce or eliminate those risks. Potential occupational hazards:
- Mechanical hazards: danger of entrapment, entrapment, impact, perforation or puncturing, friction or abrasion.
- Biological risks: possible exposure to micro-organisms that may cause illness during work activity.
- Physical hazards: The most frequent: noise, vibration, radiation, temperature and humidity.
- Ergonomic risks: posture, environmental conditions and psychosocial aspects.
- Chemical hazards: Flammable, Explosive, Combustion, Corrosive, Irritant, Toxic, Radioactive…
- Psychosocial risks: Work-related stress, conflicts at work, harassment at work, violence in the workplace, discrimination at work, lack of support, overload / excessive working hours.
- Environmental risks: Biological, chemical or physical agents, environmental quality, electrical or ergonomic risk or even natural disasters.
4. Taking action: Once employers have identified the hazards in their workplace, they must develop and implement an action plan to reduce and eliminate those hazards. This should include ways to prevent the hazards from occurring, ways to reduce the severity of the hazards and ways to respond to the hazards should they occur. It is important to designate a responsible person and to carry out periodic reviews to ensure that the measures are effective, especially if an accident occurs, at which point it is necessary to determine what has gone wrong and what measures need to be added or modified. At this point, Personal Protective Equipment is fundamental. In our case, work or safety footwear is an essential part of many work activities. Factors such as anti-slip soles, protective toecaps, preferably non-metallic to ensure lightness and protection, anti-puncture insoles, breathability, resistance to abrasion and electrical charges are aspects to be taken into account in work footwear. There is a suitable shoe for every profession.
Identifying hazards in the workplace is a vital part of creating a safe and healthy working environment. By taking a methodical approach to assessing the workplace, employers can ensure that they have identified all potential hazards and have taken the necessary steps to reduce and eliminate them. Doing so can help protect both employees and businesses.