Will exposure to hazards in the workplace cause injury illness or other adverse health effects?

When trying to evaluate the safety of a workplace, it can be tempting to look only at areas where people are injured or experience other problems. The fact is, however, that hazards often present themselves in ways that are not nearly as obvious. This is because most of the time when someone is exposed to a hazard, they will not experience any injury, illness, or other adverse health effects.

For an injury or other adverse health effect to occur, several things often have to happen at once. First, a person needs to be in the area where the hazard exists. Next, the events related to the hazard have to take place at the same time. Third, the person has to be at risk for the hazard. In many cases, these things do not all line up at the same time, but that does not mean there is no hazard.

For example, a simple hazard that exists in many facilities is the swinging of a door being opened. As long as nobody is standing where the door swings, nobody will get hurt. In addition, even if someone stands in that area, they won’t get hurt unless the door happens to be opened while they are there. Finally, even if someone is standing there and the door opens, they may not get hurt if they see the door opening or the door is opened slowly so it doesn’t cause a problem.

When evaluating the safety of an area, however, you need to look at the worst-case possibilities of hazards and mitigate them, even if most of the time no adverse impacts occur.


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