Whilst the workplace is a much safer place in 2021 than it was even just a few decades ago, there remain a variety of potential hazards to look out for on the job. Both employers and employees need to remain vigilant in the workplace, with legal and moral obligations at play in ensuring a safe environment for work.
If employers fail to protect workers against the pitfalls of the workplace, it can result in serious injury and often a lengthy, expensive legal process thereafter.
There are a whole range of potential hazards that face workers in the modern world, these include but are not limited to: physical hazards such as trips, falls and noises, ergonomic hazards such as bad posture and repetitive movement, chemical hazards caused by the incorrect handling of harmful substances, and biological hazards, which result from the contraction of viruses or bacteria in the workplace.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the top five workplace hazards that you were probably unaware of…
1. Working in Confined Spaces
Sometimes there is no escaping the fact that we need to carry out a job/s in an enclosed or mostly enclosed area. A confined space doesn’t always mean a small space, with many large storage facilities falling into this category. There are many risks to working in a confined space, the main ones being fire or the risk of asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen or the inhalation of noxious fumes. Whilst working in confined spaces should be avoided wherever possible, it is sometimes unavoidable and so the correct preparation should always be made beforehand. This can include proper ventilation of the space, the locking and shutting of valves, and the preparation of a viable escape route in case of fire. Offering confined space training for your staff is the best way to enable them to deal with this hazard effectively.
2. Contraction of Bacteria and Viruses
From time to time we all get sick as a result of coming into contact with harmful bacteria and viruses, yet some jobs have a much higher risk of this occurring than others. Working in hospitals, clinics, schools and laboratories can carry with it the risk of biological hazards and so the correct precautions should always be taken to limit or avoid this. Antibacterial hand gels should be readily available to staff and clients/students/patients whilst working with children requires educating them on the importance of hygiene.
3. Poor Posture
Most office jobs require workers to remain in a seated position for up to seven hours a day (in reality in can be even more), and this can lead to serious health issues when there are deficiencies in a person’s posture. Many of us tend to slouch or overarch our back in a seat, both of which can lead to spinal injury over a long period. It is important to remember to sit upright with uncrosses legs, keeping wrists above the keyboard and centring your computer monitor are good ways to stay upright and maintain correct posture.
Whilst it can be tempting for employers and employees to demand more from themselves and others in terms of putting in the hours, overwork is one of the most commonly overlooked hazards in today’s workplace. The human brain has a limited capacity for information processing and, through overwork, our capacity for memory, decision making and maintaining performance levels will inevitably drop. When this is the case, the likelihood of a mistake being made is much higher and this can create a range of hazards depending on the work being carried out. In addition, overwork will very likely result in a lower quality outcome than if a job was performed by somebody working for the optimum amount of time.
5. Work-related Violence
Many people are surprised to learn that violence in the workplace is a common issue that workers of all types have to face on a regular basis. Work-related violence is defined as any situated in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances related to their work. As well as physical violence, this concept also involves verbal and emotional abuse at work, making this an issue that many of us don’t know about or consider at all.