The Hazards of the Workplace
© copyright DRK 2011
The Hazards of the Workplace
Working and your workplace go together like peanut butter and jelly or a burger and fries. You can’t have one without the other. Some of us work in factories, offices, stores, restaurants, fast food facilities, nursing homes, machine shops, movie theaters, on construction sites, and farms. Millions of people go to work everyday of their lives but have probably never given any thought to how safe their workplaces actually are. There are many hazards lurking there. A hazard is anything that can harm you either mentally or physically. The are four major categories for workplace hazards. They are physical, ergonomic, chemical, and biological.
A physical hazard is defined as contact between a person and object which leads to some kind of negative interaction. A physical hazard is being hit by a box falling off a shelf, falling down a flight of stairs, being burned by a hot object, or being hit by a moving machine. Individuals who work in offices might think they are fairly safe from the physical hazards, but this is not the case when there are tangled electrical cords on the floor and loose carpeting.
An ergonomic hazard is where working conditions and body positioning puts a strain on the body in some way. This hazard is by far the least recognizable. These hazards include poor lighting, poor posture, frequent lifting, and awkward movements. There might be repetitive movements from working at the computer all day that cause physical problems to arms and wrists. Cleaning personnel who bend, mop, and vacuum floors are greatly at risk. These activities cause strains and sprains. Although office workers are the most susceptible, nursing home workers, and machine operators could also have problems with these hazards.
A chemical hazard occurs when a person is exposed to a harmful chemical whether it be in the form of a solid, liquid or gas. These chemicals could be cleaning products, pesticides, toxic gases, mold or dust. For landscapers and people working on farms, pesticides are an ever present danger. Machine shop workers come in contact daily with mold and dust. Maintenance workers, who clean offices and buildings, come into contact with a variety of cleaning chemicals. They breathe in the fumes and their hands are likely to touch the products. Asbestos, which is found in numerous commercial and residential products, has been a leading cause of respiratory illnesses for years.
A biological hazard is any organism or a by-product from an organism that is harmful to living things. The workers who are most susceptible to biological hazards are healthcare workers, researchers, pharmacy workers, nursing personnel, physicians, veterinary care workers, environmental services workers, shipping and receiving personnel. Both chemical and biological hazards can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin by cuts or bruises, or ingested. Some of the biological hazards are molds, bacteria, blood and body fluids, animal and bird droppings, fungi, insect bites, bacteria, viruses, and grain dust. Even office workers cannot ignore poor air quality circulating throughout their work areas. When one person comes down with a cold or flu, the entire office will probably succumb to the same illness.
To summarize, these categories are not mutually exclusive to each other. There is definite overlapping in certain categories. Awareness of the physical, ergonomic, chemical, and biological workplace hazards are what workers should be familiar with. If the awareness is there, these hazards can be easily recognizable and hopefully preventable.