You can group workplace hazards into five different categories: physical, chemical, biological, ergonomic, and psychosocial. This makes it easier to be systematic about identifying hazards.
Physical hazards refer to potential dangers in the workplace that can cause harm to employees. These can include trip hazards, machinery, noise, and other safety hazards.
If you do not handle them properly, chemical hazards can harm you and others. These can include acids, solvents, and other dangerous chemicals.
Biological hazards refer to living organisms that can cause harm to employees. These can include Legionella bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.
Ergonomic hazards refer to poorly designed workstations or work practices that can cause physical harm to employees. These can include repetitive motion injuries, improper lifting techniques, and other hazards related to work posture and movement.
Psychosocial hazards refer to hazards that can cause harm to an employee’s mental and emotional well-being. These can include stressors related to work pressure, interpersonal conflicts, and other workplace-related stress.
There are several ways to identify hazards in the workplace. Some of these methods include:
- Workplace inspections. Conducting inspections of the workplace is an ideal opportunity to identify unsafe conditions or hazards and to discuss them with the workforce, which promotes worker involvement in safety matters.
- Task analysis. A structured approach to analyzing a task by breaking it down into its component parts and considering the hazards at each stage of the task.
- Accident/incident data. Analyzing accident and incident data provides valuable information on the hazards that may cause injuries and their likelihood and severity.
- Ill-health records. Ill-health records provide valuable information on instances of ill-health that may be associated with a breakdown in control measures.
- Absence records. Analyzing workplace sickness absence records may help to pinpoint common causes of absence that can then be tackled.
- Audit reports. Audit reports provide a more detailed analysis of the effectiveness of parts of the safety management system.
- Incident investigation reports. These reports help to focus on weaknesses in safety management that may not have been previously identified or considered important. They are also useful for identifying hazards and can yield information on human behavior that can be used as the basis for behavioral change and training programs.
- Workers. The workforce can be a valuable source of information on the reality of working conditions, problems encountered when performing tasks, hazards, risks, suggestions, and more.
- Legislation and Manufacturer’s information. Using legislation and manufacturer’s information can also provide valuable information on hazards related to work equipment and machinery.
- International bodies and standards. International bodies, national and international standards bodies, and national regulatory agencies can provide information on hazards, risks, and controls in a wide range of settings, which can inform hazard identification and risk assessment.