Four Categories of Workplace Hazards

Management works to minimize chemical, physical, biological and psychological hazards in the workplace.

Management works to minimize chemical, physical, biological and psychological hazards in the workplace.

Employees encounter hazards every day in the workplace. Such hazards, including the risk of injury or disease, can cause physical or psychological harm to an employee if he is exposed to it. Typically, these hazards are classified as chemical, physical and mechanical, biological and psychological hazards.

Chemical Hazards

Chemicals have properties, such as flammability, carcinogenicity and toxicity, that may cause harm including damage to tissues and organs. Consequently, organizations often reduce or eliminate the use of a chemical or modify procedures to protect workers through the use of robotics or computer-aided manufacturing. Employees may also be provided with respirators, gloves and other protective gear to prevent contact with chemicals.

Physical Hazards

Physical hazards in the workplace that can cause a traumatic injury include radiation, workplace violence and noise. Companies implement engineering and administrative controls to limit potential exposure. For example, protective equipment may be required to minimize exposure to chemicals. This may include safety glasses, hearing protection, specialized gloves and clothing. Companies may enclose dangerous systems, conduct hazard-awareness training and establish rules that limit access to hazardous areas.

Biological Hazards

Microorganisms, parasites and other biological hazards may cause infections and allergies, or produce toxic chemicals. Because some biohazards enter the body by skin contact, wounds, inhalation or consumption of contaminated food, companies may design an infection control program that provides care in the event of work-related illnesses. In addition, a personnel health safety education program may be developed and employees may be immunized. To reduce the transmission of infections, workplace surveillance can be used to ensure proper techniques for washing hands and cleaning devices are being used. This will identify risks and help implement strategies for compliance.

Psychological Hazards

Psychological hazards can produce fear and stress, and endanger mental health. This can include exposure to workplace violence and work overload, or even role ambiguity and a lack of support from other employees. To address this, companies can adjust workloads and revising production schedules to relieve stress. Enhanced technology in the production process can reduce exposure to chemical and biological risks and empower employees with greater autonomy in achieving work objectives.

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About the Author

Billie Nordmeyer works as a consultant advising small businesses and Fortune 500 companies on performance improvement initiatives, as well as SAP software selection and implementation. During her career, she has published business and technology-based articles and texts. Nordmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting, a Master of Arts in international management and a Master of Business Administration in finance.

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