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The best way to keep staff safe from hazards in the workplace is to identify the risks and work to reduce or eliminate them.

Every employer wants to provide a safe workplace for their staff. The average workplace can have hundreds of hazards that need to be identified, and the risk eliminated or reduced as much as possible. Check your workplace for the following common hazards to ensure a safe environment for all workers. 

#1 General Safety Hazards

The most common workplace hazards are slips, trips and falls. They result in musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures, dislocations and serious injuries. Between 2003-2015, slips, trips and falls accounted for 23% of serious workers’ compensation claims. Around 56% of all accidents were attributed to environmental factors including slippery surfaces, poor walkways, poor lighting and materials stored on the floor.
 
To reduce the chance of these injuries occurring, conduct regular walkthroughs of the office looking for items on the floor, damaged floor coverings or slippery hard surfaces. Educate staff to always look out for trip hazards and either report them for repair or fixing. 
 
While doing your walkthroughs, try to see the workplace from a visitor’s perspective. Often staff know where the hazards are but a visitor, particularly if they are elderly or sight impaired, may not recognise the potential danger.

#2 Safety Hazards - Machinery and Construction

Safety hazards can be present in any workplace but are usually most common for individuals who work directly with machinery, tools, at heights or with electrics. They can be industry specific such as factory workers are at risk of an injury from heavy machinery, or construction workers at risk of an injury on site. Some workplaces change daily and so do the hazards, so it’s important to keep employees up to date on important safety procedures.

Toolbox talks at the start of every shift can ensure safety stays top of mind for all workers. Train staff to be on the lookout for safety hazards and to either report or fix it immediately. Ensure all staff have access to and use the correct safety clothing and equipment. 

#3 Chemical Hazards

Almost every workplace in Australia has some kind of chemical hazard. It might be as minor as a cleaning product under the office kitchen sink, right through to a company that deals with highly toxic substances daily. 
 
For minor risk workplaces like an office, ensure that you clearly mark all potentially hazardous liquids with their intended use and restrict access to only those who need to use them. 
 
For hazardous workplaces that use chemicals as part of the work process, ensure all staff are up to date with their training requirements in safe handling practices. Provide first aid staff with refresher courses and make sure all staff know what to do if their colleague is burned or injured. Ensure everyone knows where to find the medical kit in case of an emergency. Look at ways to make the environment as safe as possible, so chemical spills are less likely.

#4 Psychosocial Hazards

Psychosocial hazards aren’t always considered in a safety audit, yet they’re costing Australian organisations billions every year. Psychosocial hazards include workplace bullying, fatigue, remote locations, mental stress and changes in the workplace. They can cause both psychological or physical harm.

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides workers with the opportunity to access free counselling to help deal with a problem. Encourage workers to speak up when they have a problem. Ensuring the culture is supportive of one another can make a big difference in the psychosocial hazards.

#5 Mobile Work Hazards

Some workers spend most of their time in the car travelling between locations. It’s important that their mobile workplace is safe and has the equipment they need to do their job on the go. 
 
Vehicles, vans and trucks should be serviced and safety checked regularly to reduce the chance of a motor vehicle accident. Install hands-free holders to allow workers to see their phone and answer calls without having to pull over in traffic.  
 
Rugged computers and hand-held tablets make the job easier and safer for mobile workers. If a worker spends time alone in remote locations or high-risk areas, look for a device that has a call facility in case of emergency.

#6 Physical Hazards

There are numerous physical hazards that can harm a worker in the short or long term. Loud noise in any workplace setting can cause permanent damage to hearing, so ensure staff wear suitable ear protection.

Working in extreme heat or cold conditions can have health risks. An organisation can reduce these risks with access to sunscreen and protective clothing.

#7 Ergonomic Hazards

Any worker who repeats the same task throughout their workday is at risk of a repetitive strain injury (RSI). Everything from factory work to clerical can have repetitive movements. The best way to avoid these injuries is to change the work environment to suit the needs of the worker. An ergonomic chair with good back support can help office workers maintain their posture while seated and rotating workers through different tasks can reduce the chance of developing an RSI. 
 
Educate new workers about the risks through induction programs and ongoing training. Advise them of the symptoms and encourage them to seek treatment early. Ergonomic assessments of workstations can improve the equipment and processes to reduce the risks.

#8 Biological Hazards

Biological hazards include pathogenic microorganisms, viruses, biological toxins, spores, and fungi. Exposure to some biological hazards risk workers’ health. Healthcare workers are at risk of human body fluids, farmers are at risk because of their close contact with animals, while laboratory workers can be exposed to anything that’s in the petri dish. 

Ensuring staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly can help. Good processes and procedures around handling, cleaning and disposing of biological waste products can reduce risks.

If your organisation needs help with identifying and mitigating hazards in your workplace, call Altius Group on 1300 307 912 or contact us online.