Not knowing what types of hazards exist in workplaces could cause serious or deadly injuries to employees. Employers are required under the Occupational Safety Health’s Act Duty Clause to prevent and remove recognized hazards to provide a safe workplace for their employees. Ignorance of not knowing what those hazards are is no excuse when injuries occur. Employees who are injured because employers fail with this legal responsibly are entitled to compensation for their work injuries.
OSHA’s 5 Types of Workplace Hazards
OSHA has identified five types of workplace hazards that employers need to take steps to mitigate the risks to their employees:
- Safety. Any object, substance or condition that poses a safety risk to workers needs to be addressed. This could be cluttered work areas, frayed electrical wires or machines with moving parts.
- Chemical. Workers may be exposed to chemicals in various forms like gases, vapors, liquids or particulate form through skin/eye contact or inhalation. Hazards might include silica dust, asbestos fibers, acids or carbon monoxide.
- Biological. Employees who work with animals or people are at high risk of exposure to biological hazards. This could include blood, bodily fluids, bacteria, or viruses.
- Physical. A physical hazard is one that could injure workers with or without contact. Working in extreme heat/cold, long hours in the sun or a noisy environment can cause injury.
- Ergonomic. Musculoskeletal disorders can occur from ergonomic-related hazards in workplaces. These hazards can be difficult to identify because they occur over time, like repetitive stress injuries.
Maintaining a Safe Workplace
The mission of OSHA is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.” In keeping with that mission, OSHA has developed the concept of three lines of defense that are an important step toward maintaining safe workplaces. These lines of defense range from the most effective to the least effective: 1. Engineering controls, 2. Administrative and workplace controls and 3. Personal protective equipment
A safe workplace is the responsibility of everyone, but the tone needs to be set from the top. All three lines of defense can be used in all types of workplaces, including factories, hospitals, construction sites, and offices. When applied correctly, these lines of defense can help reduce accidents and mitigate the risk of serious injuries in accidents that do occur.