Take a look at your place of work. Do you see cautionary signs on the walls signalling dangerous areas? Is there a fire extinguisher in the corner? Have the kitchen appliances got regulatory testing certification stickers plastered on them?
Your answer is probably yes. Our employers are legally bound to address physical hazards in the workplace, ensuring that they are safe environments for us to operate in on a daily basis.
Despite all of these measures to eradicate workplace risks, there are many hazards that aren’t quite so obvious. Hazards can come in all shapes and forms: physical, biological, chemical, and ergonomic.
In this article, we’re going to look at the top 5 workplace hazards you never knew existed.
Air pollution may be something you associate only with congested city centres, but it’s a real threat to health and safety in the workplace.
Poor air quality can lead to a barrage of health issues like occupational asthma, dermatitis, and cancer.
There are several reasons why the quality of air in the workplace might become poor. From damp and mould to the use of toxic cleaners and air fresheners, the air can become clogged with harmful bacteria and irritants.
Good quality air is generated when the working environment:
- Is at a comfortable temperature.
- Has controlled levels of humidity.
- Has a supply of fresh, clean outdoor air.
- Uses measures to control internal and external pollutants.
Keep your nose tuned in for unpleasant smells – if you notice anything odd, it’s time to investigate further.
How would you compare the cleanliness of your desk to the toilet seat in the communal bathroom? Your desk is clearly the cleaner of the two, right?
Wrong. Recent studies have shown that the average office desk actually has a disgusting four hundred times more germs on it than a toilet seat. And you can’t even see it.
Since you regularly use your mouse and keyboard, these are the primary germ hotspots.
After typing furiously away at your computer, you might decide to take a break and head to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. On your way, you touch the doorknob on the kitchen door. You touch the cutlery drawer and the spoons inside. You touch the tap to fill the kettle and you touch the kettle handle itself. You grab a mug and you touch the communal coffee container and the milk jug.
All this time, you’re spreading the bacteria from your desk all around the kitchen. This bacteria can lead to outbreaks of sickness in the office.
Now you’re equipped with this information, keep a bottle of hand sanitiser at your desk and make sure you thoroughly wipe it down daily!
We all get that mid-afternoon slump where we’re feeling a little uncomfortable after sitting in our office chair all day. We begin to slump down. It might feel good in the moment, but long-term, it can do serious damage to our muscles.
Whether you’re in an office job or carrying out manual labour, you’re at risk of ergonomic injuries. Doing repetitive tasks or doing heavy lifting and bending without adopting proper posture can severely hurt you.
Basic tasks like repetitive strain from typing or clicking with a computer mouse can cause issues like carpal tunnel syndrome. You’re also at risk of straining back, arm, and leg muscles when carrying heavy items.
It’s important that you are conscious of your posture and follow the correct procedures in place for manual tasks to avoid injury.
When was the last time you woke up on a work morning and felt flat-out exhausted? You might think you can just muddle through the work day, but worker fatigue can actually pose a real hazard in the workplace.
Operating machinery or supervising others on risky tasks when you’re not feeling your sharpest is incredibly dangerous. Your focus is diminished and you can easily miss major red flags.
Working overtime or simply not getting enough sleep means that you’re at greater risk of inflicting injury or getting caught up in an accident.
Make sure you and the others around you are refreshed for a day of work, and if anyone isn’t fit for the job, don’t allow them on the shop floor.
The constant use of vibrating machinery, like pneumatic drills, can inflict serious injury on workers over time.
There are two primary types of vibration-related injury: hand-arm and whole body.
With hand-arm vibration injuries, the sharp, repetitive vibrations can impair your joints, muscles, and nerves, all the way from your hand and right up your arm. The damage can be so severe that you could lose your ability to operate in that role anymore.
Whole body vibration damage is common with forklift drivers. Rather than the tool being used causing the vibration, the surface on which the forklift is being driven upon is vibrating, and these vibrations are sent right through their body. Many forklift drivers complain of lower back pain.
Being conscious of the hazards vibrations can pose means you’ll be better able to manage the time you spend doing these tasks.
Knowing how to identify risks in the workplace is the first step towards creating a healthier working environment.
Many hazards slip under the radar but with a keen eye, business can stop making health and safety errors.
If you’re a business owner or a member of the management team, show that you take health and wellness seriously in your workplace by keeping these 5 workplace hazards seriously.