What are the main kinds of workplace hazards?
- Chemical hazards
These can occur in garages, factories, farms, laboratories and clinics. They can be in form of gases, liquids, vapours or dusts. Direct contact with chemicals can cause burns or skin irritation. They can also affect your lungs and affect your ability to breath. They can also cause explosions or fires.
- Physical hazards
These include high or very low temperatures, high levels of noise or vibration. Much heat can cause heat sickness and lead to dehydration. Low temperatures can affect your ability to concentrate. High levels of noise can damage your hearing and lead to deafness.
- Biological hazards
These often occur in places such a clinics and hospitals where germs are and can be passed from one person to another. In clinics people can be pricked by infected needles, or pick up germs from touching infected people. People who work with sewage or animals are also at risk of getting infected with germs.
- Psychosocial hazards
Too much work pressure, such as meeting unrealistic deadlines can lead to stress, depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.
- Ergonomic hazards
These often occur where people work in cramped spaces or uncomfortable positions such as poor seating or standing for long. These conditions could result in backache, wrist strain, shoulder pains, etc.
How do hazards affect your body?
Some hazards affect your body immediately. For example chemicals can cause skin burns, dust can make you cough or cause asthma (shortness of breath). Some may take longer. You may become deaf after exposure to noise for long.
Other hazards, such as radiation from X-ray machines or electricity power plants may not be felt but may cause cancer after some time.
How do you know the Health problem is caused by your workplace?
- Did the health problem start after starting this kind of work? (e.g. burning eyes, headaches, lack of concentration, etc.)
- Does the health problem get worse when you are at work and better when you are on holiday (e.g. may have difficulty in breathing/ asthma at work but not when on holiday or at home).
- Do some other workers working in same place as you experience similar health problems? (If so it is likely the hazard is at work)
How do you control workplace hazards?
- The aim should be to control the hazard or if possible, to remove it completely.
- If possible, replace the hazardous substance with a less hazardous one.
- Work processes or machinery could be replaced or made safer.
- Extractors or ventilators could be used to remove dangerous gases.
- Personal protective equipment (e.g. head helmet, boots or ear plugs, etc) may also be necessary.
- Keep the workplace clean and tidy.