6 types of workplace hazards and how to spot them

We explain the 6 types of health and safety hazards in the workplace, along with helpful examples and some tips on how to spot them.

What is a workplace hazard?

A workplace health and safety hazard can be defined as activities, substances or processes that have the potential to cause an injury to an employee or could be harmful to their health.

However, more generally, hazards can also be those that have an adverse effect on animals, property, equipment, or the environment.

What’s the difference between a hazard and a risk?

A risk is the probability or likelihood of an employee being harmed as a result of a hazard.

whats the difference between a risk and a hazard

Examples of health and safety hazards in the workplace

To help you identify hazards in the workplace, we’ve outlined 6 common examples of workplace hazards. These are safety hazards, physical / environmental hazards, biological hazards (biohazards), chemical hazards, ergonomic hazards and psychosocial hazards.

Take a look and think about the hazards in your own workplace. Which categories do they fall into? Does this classification prompt you to think of any hazards that you haven’t previously considered?

What are the 6 types of hazards in the workplace?

There are generally 6 types of workplace hazards to look out for. Here’s our description of each, along with some practical examples:

1. Safety hazards

Sometimes confused with physical hazards, these are things that create an unsafe working environment. An example of a safety hazard would be a damaged handrail, a leak causing a slippery floor, a step in an unusual place, operating dangerous machinery or equipment, or something that may cause a fall from height. Safety hazards exist in all types of jobs but are more wide-ranging in industries such as construction and utilities where the risk of a slip, trip or fall is much greater.

2. Physical / environmental hazards

Physical hazards aren’t always tangible, so this classification of hazard is an easy one to forget. They’re things that can cause you harm without visibly touching you. Examples include loud noise, radiation, pressure, extreme temperatures and even the sun’s rays. According to IOSH, over 1 million workers are exposed to noise that puts their hearing at risk and 17% suffer from tinnitus, hearing loss or other hearing issues. You can read more about this here.

3. Biological hazards (biohazards)

Biological hazards that can impact a workers’ health include animals and insects, viruses and bacteria, blood and bodily fluids, dust and mould spores, and certain types of plants. Understandably, those who work in sectors such as healthcare are commonly subject to biological hazards. However, the construction industry also sees its fair share of biological hazards; according to HSE, there are currently over 5,000 asbestos-related deaths per year. Click here for more information.

4. Chemical hazards

Chemical hazards are harmful substances (e.g. liquids, solvents and gases) that can cause issues such as skin and respiratory irritation, blindness, corrosion, and explosions. Examples include paints, pesticides, carbon monoxide and acids. Those working in industrial cleaning, construction, manufacturing, or agriculture are likely to be affected by chemical hazards.

5. Ergonomic hazards

Ergonomic hazards are those that can cause musculoskeletal injuries (or strain on the body). For example, manual handling, vibrations, poor postures, or an inadequate workstation setup. These types of hazards sometimes cause problems over a protracted time so, of all the 6 types of workplace hazards, these are most commonly overlooked.

6. Psychosocial hazards

These hazards relate to psychological factors and the social environment that can harm an employee’s wellbeing and mental health. This may include workload issues, stress, violence, abuse, and harassment. It’s important to look out for psychosocial hazards in any role but lone workers can be significantly affected as they can sometimes feel more isolated and there may not always be someone available to help if a problem occurs.
Did you know that 14.7% of people experience mental health issues in the workplace? You can find more information about this here.

How can you identify hazards in your workplace?

Carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment will help you to identify and list the hazards in your workplace.

If your organisation has a fixed location, you could begin by walking around the workplace and looking for signs of visible hazards. But it’s important not to forget about the less obvious hazards …

Here are some tips for identifying hazards in the workplace:

  • Engage with your workforce. Ask them about hazardous activities, substances, or processes that they encounter during their work. Sometimes it can be useful for health and safety managers to shadow colleagues for a more comprehensive understanding.
  • Regularly review your log of accidents or near misses to ensure you haven’t overlooked a hazard.
  • Don’t just think about instant hazards. Consider hazards that may cause a problem over a prolonged time e.g. continuous noise or even frequent, routine hand washing.
  • Not all hazards are always a problem e.g. you may have certain processes that only happen monthly or even annually. It’s important not to forget about these.
  • Not all hazards will relate to your premises. Think about lone and remote workers. What types of places they might be visiting, who might they be visiting, what substances might they be exposed to, and what equipment might they be using? It’s important to have a tailored Lone Worker Risk Assessment.
  • What are the main types of hazards your homeworkers face? Take a look at our blog: Working from Home Policy: Health and safety checklist.
  • Consider out of hours activities and the hazards that may be associated with these e.g. cleaning and security.
  • Increasingly, employers will also consider the hazards their employees face when travelling to and from work. Our article, Tips for a safe, stress-free commute, may provide some useful insight.

How do you report workplace health and safety hazards?

All colleagues should be responsible for reporting hazards, or potential hazards, as soon as possible and should follow their internal organisational procedure. However, generally, the first person to notify would be a manager or supervisor, followed by a health and safety representative who will be able to advise on the next steps.

How can a lone worker safety system help to minimise the risks created by workplace hazards?

A SoloProtect lone worker safety system provides lone or remote workers with the means to discreetly call for help in an emergency at the push of a Red Alert button. It will also detect if the user is incapacitated for any reason via a Man Down Alarm.

This gives lone workers and managers peace of mind that someone will be available to help when they need it and ensures the quickest possible emergency response via our Alarm Receiving Centre.

For more information, take a look at our lone worker solutions.

Example Lone Worker Risk Assessment

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