No matter what your work environment is office, restaurant, warehouse, showroom, construction site, store
There is going to be potential hazards.
Whether they be safety, ergonomic, ill health, biological, chemical or physical hazards, there will be some lurking in your workplace.
In this article we’re discussing the top 4 physical hazards as they can often be overlooked, but can prove extremely dangerous.
Physical hazards are factors within the environment that can harm a body without necessarily touching it. This can make it harder to determine not only if it’s present, but who’s responsible and if it’s even manageable.
We’ve been in this industry for a long time, and if we were to pin point the top 4 physical hazards in the workplace, they would be: radiation, noise, temperature extremes and vibrations.
Radiation sounds terrifying. And it sounds like something out of a Chernobyl documentary that isn’t very likely to affect a common worker. However, every day in the UK there are numerous industries that use different types of radiation.
For the most part these applications bring great benefits to people, but if left uncontrolled they can be harmful to the people exposed to them.
There are two types of radiation: ionising radiations, and non-ionising radiation.
Ionising radiations is what we would commonly relate to X-rays and gamma rays. It also occurs naturally from the radioactive decay of substances such as radon gas.
The industries that commonly use this type of radiation are nuclear, manufacturing, medical and dental, oil and gas production and engineering.
Non-ionising radiation (NIR) covers two regions of the electromagnetic spectrum: optical radiation (ultraviolet (UV), visible and infrared) and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) (power frequencies, microwaves and radio frequencies).
This type of radiation is commonly found in industries that use sunbeds, lasers, interactive whiteboards or where workers work outside in the sun.
Yes, most workplaces expose us to noise. But we aren’t just talking about terrible music pouring through the speakers, or the cackle of the people next door through the weak walls.
We are talking about serious work noise, where the noise reaches 85 decibels. That’s around about the sound of a passing train if you’re standing 15 meters away. Or if a food blender was on constantly sitting on your desk beside you.
Excessive noise can cause permanent damage to your hearing. Hearing loss can either take place progressively over a long period or, if the noise is exceptionally loud and sudden, instantly.
The riskiest workplaces would be factories, roadworks, airports and construction sites. People that work with power tools or plant machinery are most likely to be at risk of noise related injury or illness.
We aren’t just talking about when it gets a bit cold outside and you forgot your jumper. This is when the temperature drops too low or too high for workers to carry out their job comfortably and safely.
How you manage the temperature of your workplace will depend on whether it’s indoors or outdoors, and what the normal operating temperature of that environment is.
Indoor workplaces must provide a reasonable working temperature in workrooms. This is usually at least 16°C.
Working outdoor can potentially have a very serious impact on an employee’s welfare. It may be immediate or occur over a long time period depending on the situation. Therefore providing suitable clothing, scheduling work hours to either avoid the extreme sun or the lower temperatures, and provide necessary rest breaks.
Sun protection is very important to prevent risk of sunburn, heat stroke and more serious conditions such as cancer. Likewise working in extreme cold temperatures can affect muscle movements and increase the risk of hypothermia.
The two main effects of vibration hazards are Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) and Whole-Body Vibration.
Hand-Arm Vibration is caused by regular exposure to vibrating and percussive tools. Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is the damage that is caused to muscles, joints, circulation and nerves in the hand and arm.
Whole-Body Vibration (WBV) is experienced when sitting, standing or lying on a vibrating surface. For example a forklift driver would be exposed to this type of vibration.
Industries most at risk would be construction, agriculture and engineering.
There are several other categories of workplace hazards to look out for:
These are down to unsafe working conditions that can put employees in risk of injury, illness and at it’s most extreme, death. They include slips, trips and falls, working from heights, electrical hazards, unguarded machinery and confined spaces.
An ergonomic hazard is basically any physical factor in your environment that hurts your body. Things like flimsy office chairs, poor lighting and repetitive or awkward movements are all common examples of ergonomic hazards.
Ill Health Hazards
Work-related ill health is any health condition caused or made worse by your job.
This can include sudden and physical injuries, such as backache, RSI, asthma, certain cancers, hearing loss and eye strain.
It also includes mental ill health issues such as stress, depression or anxiety.
This can be brought on by overwork, unacceptable pressures, bullying and intimidation or harassment.
This is the unwanted exposure to harm or disease related to working with animals, people or infectious plant materials. Things such as blood and body fluids, bacteria and viruses, insect bites and animal droppings. Some of the most obvious workplaces that are affected would be hospitals, nurseries, laboratories, farms etc.
Whether it be solid, liquid or gas, if an employee is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace it is considered a chemical hazard. Some are more dangerous than others but even common solutions can cause skin irritation, illness or breathing problems. Some common workplace chemicals would be cleaning products, vapours and fumes, pesticides or flammable materials like gasoline or solvents.
We hope this article helped you understand more about the different types of hazards in the workplace.
If you are still concerned or need any further advice or training, get in touch with us here or fill out the form below.