Any workplace, no matter how safe it may seem, can contain serious hazards that threaten the health and safety of employees and visitors. These hazards often go ignored or overlooked, in many cases because of negligent or inattentive employers. By knowing how to identify health and safety hazards in the workplace, you can notice and avert occupational hazards before they are able to cause harm.
There are three main factors to consider in identifying a health and safety hazard: the hazard itself, the outcome or potential effects of the hazard if it is not controlled, and the likelihood that it will cause serious harm. For example, a weak scaffold can collapse and send workers, materials, and tools falling downward. The outcome of a scaffold collapse can include serious fall-related injuries, crushing, and lacerations. A sturdy scaffold is unlikely to collapse, but a weakened or overburdened one may fail.
Organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) go to great lengths to assess the probability and possible consequences of hazards in workplaces of all kinds. While occupations such as construction work may pose many of the most serious health and safety hazards, most workers are aware of the hazards in their environment and safety equipment is standard. Office workers may not be as aware of the dangers posed by their workplace, putting them at increased risk.
In order to assess the risk of a hazard, employees of OSHA and other organizations measure the probability that an incident will occur. They also consider the possible outcomes and health effects of that hazard, should it get out of control. If a particular practice or item in a workplace is likely to cause serious harm, new regulations may be put in place to change manufacturing standards, required safety measures, and other changes as needed.
Employers are required by law to ensure their workplaces are free of unnecessary hazards. They should ensure their employees are aware of all possible hazards and have access to the right safety equipment. Workers and their families who have been seriously injured at work because of another person’s negligence have the right to pursue compensation for their injuries, typically through a workers’ compensation claim.