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Four Categories of Workplace Hazards

by Kristine Tucker, studioD

Workplace hazards are a serious concern for employers and employees, often resulting in physical injury and expensive law suits. Depending on the industry, workplace hazards are as varied as dangerous chemical reactions and falls from great heights. Appropriate training, safe equipment procedures and fail-safe measures such as locks, protective eyewear and harnesses prevent many accidents, but injuries can still occur on a daily basis.


The Minnesota Department of Health defines physical workplace hazards as those that require a transfer of energy between an object and a worker. These hazards include working from great heights, hot equipment, operating heavy machinery, repetitive use of equipment, weapons in the workplace and slippery floors. According to 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 22 percent of sprains, strains and tears were the result of overexertion from lifting or lowering heavy objects, and falls accounted for 12 percent of those same types of injuries. Most overexertion cases and slips aren't fatal but result in injuries serious enough to require time off from work. Musculoskeletal disorders, often known as ergonomic injuries, resulted in 33 percent of all workplace injuries and sicknesses requiring time off from work. Ergonomic injuries often develop over time and include carpal tunnel syndrome, back injuries, shoulder injuries and other repetitive stress disorders.

Chemical and Biological

Chemical and biological workplace hazards exist in laboratories, pharmaceutical industries, industrial plants, businesses that use heavy-duty cleaning supplies, and medical facilities. Workers who have frequent exposure to harsh chemicals, powerful cleaners, dangerous pesticides and potent fertilizers must take precaution to protect themselves from inhaling or getting these chemicals on their skin. Biological hazards include molds, bacteria, viruses, grains, mildew and dust, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.


Some buildings, schools, churches, industrial facilities and offices contain electrical hazards. Equipment rooms, computer labs, dry cleaners, auto mechanic shops and industrial plants have electrical equipment that can short out, overheat and catch on fire. Some businesses have faulty wiring that can lead to fires. Electrical hazards result from malfunctioning electricity supplies, loose electrical wires and electrical sources being improperly switched off, forcing employees to work on live electrical equipment. Electric shock, electrical burns and even fatal electrocution can result.


Humans can also be work hazards to each other. Some professions, such as law enforcement and the military, put people in danger of injury and death from people using dangerous weapons. Some workers, such as store owners, bank tellers and gas station attendants, can also be vulnerable to robberies and assaults.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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