Workplace hazards are potential sources of harm or danger to employees and others in a workplace setting. These hazards can result in injuries, illnesses, or fatalities, and can have devastating consequences for individuals, families, and businesses. Ensuring workplace safety is crucial for the well-being of employees and the success of businesses.
In this blog, we will discuss 10 instant killers in the workplace, which are hazards that have the potential to cause fatal injuries or illnesses in a matter of seconds or minutes. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take steps to prevent them to ensure the safety and health of workers. By understanding the risks associated with these hazards and implementing appropriate safety measures, we can minimize the likelihood of accidents and injuries, and create a safer workplace environment for everyone.
Here are the 10 hazards that are instant killers in the workplace and some ways to prevent them:
1. Contact with moving parts
Contact with moving parts is a significant hazard in the workplace, particularly for workers who operate heavy machinery or work around it. These machines can have powerful, fast-moving parts that can cause serious injuries, amputations, or even death within seconds. Examples of dangerous moving parts include gears, pulleys, flywheels, chains, and conveyors.
To prevent contact with moving parts, employers should implement engineering controls that physically prevent workers from coming into contact with the dangerous parts. This can include guards, barriers, and safety switches that stop the machine if a worker gets too close. Employers should also ensure that machinery and equipment are properly maintained and inspected, with any worn or damaged parts replaced promptly.
Additionally, workers should be properly trained on the safe operation of machinery and equipment, as well as how to recognize and avoid potential hazards. Workers should wear proper protective gear, such as hard hats, safety goggles, and steel-toed boots, and be alert and focused on the task at hand.
By implementing these safety measures, employers can significantly reduce the risk of contact with moving parts and create a safer working environment for their employees.
2. Electrical hazards
Electrical hazards are a serious risk in the workplace, particularly in industries where electrical equipment is used. Workers can be exposed to electrical hazards through direct contact with electrical equipment or through contact with conductive materials. Electrical shocks can cause serious injuries, including burns, heart failure, and even death.
To prevent electrical hazards, employers should ensure that all electrical equipment is properly installed and maintained, and that any damaged equipment is repaired or replaced promptly. Electrical equipment should be inspected regularly to identify and fix any potential hazards. Workers should be properly trained on the safe use of electrical equipment and how to recognize and avoid electrical hazards.
Employers should also provide appropriate protective gear to workers who work around electrical equipment, such as insulated gloves, face shields, and rubber-soled shoes. Workers should never attempt to repair or maintain electrical equipment unless they are properly trained and qualified to do so.
By following these safety measures, employers can significantly reduce the risk of electrical hazards and create a safer working environment for their employees.
3. Mechanical hazards
Mechanical hazards refer to the risks posed by machinery and equipment in the workplace. Workers who operate, maintain, or work near these machines are at risk of injuries such as being crushed, caught, or struck by the machines. These hazards can occur due to various reasons, including inadequate guarding, lack of safety procedures, human error, or equipment malfunction.
To prevent mechanical hazards, employers must conduct a thorough risk assessment of the workplace to identify potential hazards and take steps to eliminate or minimize them. This may involve installing safety guards and barriers around the machines, providing appropriate training and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the workers, and implementing safe work procedures and guidelines.
Employers must also ensure that the machinery and equipment are regularly inspected, maintained, and repaired to prevent any malfunctions or defects that could lead to accidents.
By taking these measures, employers can protect their workers from mechanical hazards and create a safer work environment.
4. Inhalation of toxic fumes
Inhalation of toxic fumes is a serious hazard in many workplaces, particularly in industries that use or produce chemicals, such as manufacturing, construction, and laboratories. Toxic fumes can come from a wide range of sources, including chemicals, solvents, paints, cleaning products, and welding fumes.
Inhaling toxic fumes can cause various health problems, depending on the type of gas and the level of exposure. Short-term exposure can cause symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and respiratory irritation. Long-term exposure can lead to chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Some gases, such as carbon monoxide, can be lethal even in low concentrations and can cause unconsciousness, brain damage, or even death.
To prevent inhalation of toxic fumes, employers must identify and assess the potential sources of toxic fumes in the workplace and take measures to eliminate or control them. This may include using ventilation systems, providing appropriate PPE, training workers on safe handling and storage of chemicals, and implementing safe work procedures. Employers must also ensure that the workplace is regularly monitored for toxic fumes, and workers are regularly screened for respiratory problems.
By taking these measures, employers can create a safer work environment and protect workers from the hazards of toxic fumes.
5. Exposure to chemicals
Exposure to hazardous chemicals is a significant workplace hazard in many industries, including manufacturing, construction, agriculture, healthcare, and laboratories. Hazardous chemicals can come in various forms, including gases, liquids, and solids, and workers can be exposed to them through inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion.
Chemical exposure can cause various health problems, depending on the type of chemical and the level of exposure. Short-term exposure can cause symptoms such as skin irritation, eye irritation, respiratory problems, and nausea. Long-term exposure can lead to chronic health problems, such as cancer, reproductive disorders, and organ damage.
To prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals, employers must identify and assess the potential sources of hazardous chemicals in the workplace and take measures to eliminate or control them. This may include using engineering controls such as ventilation systems, providing appropriate PPE, training workers on safe handling and storage of chemicals, and implementing safe work procedures. Employers must also ensure that the chemicals are properly labeled and stored, and workers are provided with adequate information on the hazards and risks associated with the chemicals they use.
By taking these measures, employers can create a safer work environment and protect workers from the hazards of chemical exposure. Regular monitoring and screening for chemical exposure can also help identify any potential health problems early and prevent long-term health effects.
6. Contact with hazardous materials
Direct contact with hazardous materials is a significant workplace hazard in many industries, including manufacturing, construction, agriculture, healthcare, and laboratories. Hazardous materials can come in various forms, including corrosive liquids, toxic gases, and infectious materials.
Contact with hazardous materials can cause various health problems, depending on the type of material and the level of exposure. Exposure can cause chemical burns, skin irritation, eye irritation, respiratory problems, and in some cases, long-term health problems such as cancer.
To prevent contact with hazardous materials, employers must identify and assess the potential sources of hazardous materials in the workplace and take measures to eliminate or control them. This may include using engineering controls such as ventilation systems, providing appropriate PPE, training workers on safe handling and storage of hazardous materials, and implementing safe work procedures. Employers must also ensure that hazardous materials are properly labeled and stored, and workers are provided with adequate information on the hazards and risks associated with the materials they use.
Explosions are a significant workplace hazard in many industries, including manufacturing, construction, mining, and oil and gas. Explosions can occur due to various reasons, such as combustible materials, chemicals, or gas leaks, and can cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities within moments of the incident.
Explosions can cause various types of injuries, including burns, traumatic injuries, and head injuries. The blast itself can cause injuries from the force of the explosion, such as eardrum damage and lung injuries. The heat generated by the explosion can cause severe burns, and the impact of the explosion can cause traumatic injuries such as fractures, contusions, and lacerations. In some cases, the explosion can cause head injuries due to the force of the blast or falling debris.
Employers have an important responsibility to protect their workers from potential explosion hazards in the workplace. By implementing a range of measures including engineering controls, PPE provision, worker training and maintenance protocols they can ensure that combustible materials are safely handled and stored while also ensuring adequate information is given on any associated risks.
Fires are a significant workplace hazard in many industries, including manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and laboratories. Fires can occur due to various reasons, such as faulty equipment, electrical malfunctions, combustible materials, and chemical reactions. Fires can spread rapidly, causing chaos and panic in the workplace, and can result in severe injuries and fatalities due to burns, smoke inhalation, and other injuries.
Fires can cause various types of injuries, including burns, smoke inhalation, and trauma injuries. Burns can occur due to contact with the fire, hot surfaces, or hot liquids. Smoke inhalation can cause respiratory problems, and exposure to toxic fumes can cause chemical burns or even death. Trauma injuries can occur due to the force of the blast, falling debris, or panic-related injuries.
Employers have a critical role to play in preventing workplace fires. To ensure that their businesses are safe, employers must take the initiative of identifying and assessing any potential sources of fire and taking steps to reduce or control them. This can include utilizing engineering controls, such as installing ventilation systems and fire suppression systems, offering (PPE) to workers, educating and training workers on the safe handling and storage of combustible materials, and implementing operational safety procedures. Additionally, it is essential to keep equipment effectively maintained and inspected to ensure they remain intact before usage, while providing employees with clear information regarding the risks associated with their work tasks. Doing so will drastically reduce workplace fire hazards or even prevent them from occurring.
9. Falls from height
Falls from height are an ever-present hazard in various industrial environments, particularly construction, manufacturing and maintenance. Falls can occur due to various reasons, such as unstable or unguarded platforms, faulty equipment, and inadequate fall protection measures. Falls can happen instantly, without warning, and can result in severe head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and fractures, among other injuries.
Falls from height can cause various types of injuries, including head injuries, spinal cord injuries, fractures, and soft tissue injuries. Head injuries can occur due to a direct impact to the head or a fall causing the brain to strike the inside of the skull. Spinal cord injuries can occur due to a fall that compresses or severs the spinal cord, leading to partial or complete paralysis. Fractures can occur in various parts of the body, including the arms, legs, hips, and spine. Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, can also occur due to the force of the fall.
To keep workers safe from the dangers of falls from height, all employers must take careful and specific measures. These include identifying and assessing potential fall hazards in the workplace to determine which type of protection or safeguards are necessary. Once these have been assigned, employers must provide the necessary equipment such as guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems and other forms of catchment along with clear guidance on how to use them correctly. It is also important that employees receive adequate training and information on the risks they face while working at heights.
Overexertion can happen due to various reasons, such as lifting heavy objects, pushing or pulling heavy loads, or repetitive motions. Overexertion can cause muscle strains, sprains, or even heart attacks, among other injuries, and can happen suddenly and without warning, resulting in fatal injuries.
Overexertion can cause various types of injuries, including muscle strains, sprains, and tears. These injuries can occur due to excessive force or overuse of the muscles and tendons. In severe cases, overexertion can also cause heart attacks, especially in workers who have pre-existing heart conditions or who engage in strenuous physical activities.
To prevent overexertion, employers must identify and assess the potential overexertion hazards in the workplace and take measures to eliminate or control them. This may include providing appropriate lifting equipment, such as hoists and cranes, reducing the weight of loads, or implementing job rotation to reduce repetitive motions. Employers must also provide adequate training to workers on safe lifting techniques, stretching exercises, and other injury prevention strategies. In addition to these measures, employers should also encourage workers to take regular breaks, alternate tasks, and report any signs of overexertion or fatigue.
In conclusion, workplace safety is essential for both employers and employees. The hazards in the workplace can lead to severe injuries, fatalities, and long-term health problems, which can be devastating for the workers and the company. Therefore, it is critical that employers prioritize the safety of their employees and take proactive measures to prevent workplace hazards.
Employers must conduct regular risk assessments, identify potential hazards, and implement measures to control or eliminate these hazards. This includes providing appropriate equipment, tools, and training to workers, implementing safety protocols, and encouraging a culture of safety in the workplace. Employees must also take responsibility for their own safety by following safety protocols, reporting hazards, and taking steps to minimize their risk of injury.
By prioritizing workplace safety and taking proactive measures, employers and employees can create a safer work environment, prevent accidents from happening, and ensure the well-being of everyone in the workplace. We must all recognize the importance of workplace safety and work together to prevent workplace hazards and protect workers from harm.
Find out how to manage your business' health and safety better
Many employers are concerned about their reporting obligations for COVID-19/Coronavirus/SARS-CoV-2 under RIDDOR in the ongoing pandemic. You may be pleased to know that you do not have to report everything to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We'll provide more info about when, what, and how to report.
The most common concern we've seen recently from employers is whether they need to report all COVID-19 and coronavirus testing results to the HSE. The short answer is no. According to the HSE: “There is no requirement under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to report incidents of disease or deaths of members of the public, patients, care home residents or service users from COVID-19. The reporting requirements relating to cases of, or deaths from, COVID-19 under RIDDOR apply only to occupational exposure, that is, as a result of a person's work.”
Generally speaking, the ordinary RIDDOR rules already cover COVID-19. You should only make a report under RIDDOR when one of the following circumstances applies:
• an accident or incident at work has or could have caused the release of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). (Report as Dangerous occurrence)
• a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19 due to occupational exposure. (Report as Disease)
• a worker dies because of occupational coronavirus exposure. (Report as Work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent)
The bottom line is that existing rules cover most COVID-19 measures, and most of the COVID-19 guidance comes from public health authorities rather than the HSE. The environment remains chaotic, but you can minimize your legal exposure by continuing your existing compliance steps. This will include communicating with your insurer about risks, following public health guidance, and communicating regularly with your workers or unions on any of their concerns.
© Gavin Coyle, 2021
© Gavin Coyle, 2021