What are occupational health hazards?

Occupational hazards can make a cause a number of health problems for workers. These health hazards can fall under one of the six primary hazard categories: physical hazards, chemical hazards, biological hazards, ergonomic hazards, and behavioral hazards.

Some common workplace hazards associated with health risks include:

  • Loud noises: Hazardous noise levels or exposure to loud noises can result in long-term hearing damage.
  • Hazardous chemicals: Whether a facility is manufacturing chemical substances or simply using cleaners with harsh chemicals, hazardous chemicals can cause a litany of health problems including rashes, eye injuries, burns, organ damage, or even death.
  • Working from heights: A fall from a platform, crane, roof, or derrick can cause life-altering injuries if workers are not properly equipped with fall protection.
  • Poor air quality: Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is a common cause of headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
  • Tripping hazards: Seemingly innocuous, a wet surface or cluttered floor can result in slips, trips, or falls that cause serious injuries to a person.

Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, employers are responsible to keep their workplace safe and free from health hazards. The first step is to conduct a risk assessment of the facility to identify all potential health risks.  After all hazards have been identified, the next step is to implement hazard controls.

Using the hierarchy of hazard controls, determine if you can eliminate the hazard or substitute it for a safer alternative. If both of these options are not feasible, the hazard must be addressed with engineering controls and a change of work practices (administrative controls). Finally, if the hazard is still present, workers must be given the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

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