Workplace safety is one of the most important requirements for a comfortable working environment. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act stipulates that workplaces must be healthy and safe for all workers. Employers should get rid of any hazardous materials that may cause harm to the health of the staff. To transform the workplace into a hazard-free zone, you must first identify the various types of hazards in the workplace.
Biological hazards result from unhealthy exposure to viruses, bacteria, parasites or fungi. Employees who handle allergens and toxins without proper protection may also expose themselves to this hazard. Other forms of biological hazards include exposure to diseases such as hepatitis, influenza, HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease and tuberculosis. Allergies, cancer and skin irritation are some of the possible effects of biological hazards on human health. People working in medical facilities and sewage plants, for example, are prone to this type of hazard.
Chemical hazards exist in the form of gases, dust, corrosives, vapor and liquids. These chemicals can become dangerous to employees, when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chemical hazards can cause breathing problems, skin irritation or burns. To protect workers from chemical hazards, employers need to supply their employees with protective clothing. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees must also receive proper training on how to identify chemical hazards in their workplaces.
Fire is one of the most common hazards in the workplace. Statistics from the Seattle Fire Department Fire Prevention Division indicate that close to 80,000 workplace fire incidents occur annually in the United States. Fire hazards in the workplace include overloaded sockets, dysfunctional fire alarms, improper storage of flammables, faulty electrical appliances and blocked fire exits. Employees must understand all the escape routes in their workplaces. They must also undergo fire drills in preparation to evacuate the building when a fire occurs.
Psychological hazards in the workplace comprise stress, seclusion, intimidation, burnout and depression. Workers who experience psychological hazards can suffer from other health complications, such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, musculoskeletal problems and bowel diseases. Psychological hazards may be addressed through reducing the workload, enhancing job security and enacting anti-bullying policies at the workplace. It is also the duty of employees to use their OSHA rights to ask for an inspection of the workplace if they feel they are prone to psychological hazards.
- United States Department of Labor: The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: Biological Hazards
- International Labour Organization: More on Psychosocial Hazards and Mental Stress
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Workers’ Rights Under OSH Act
- Seattle Fire Department Fire Prevention Division: Business Fire Safety
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