Common Occupational Hazards And How To Overcome Them

By: Adline A. Ghani

As employees, our minds are always occupied with issues like deadlines and getting to work on time but how often do we give any thought to our safety at the workplace? The truth is, you don’t have to work at a construction site or manufacturing facility to be at risk. In fact, every working environment has its share of health and safety hazards.

However, the good news is accidents and injuries are largely preventable – if you take the right precautions. So what are the most common occupational health and safety hazards? How can you overcome them? Let’s check out the list:

Communicable Diseases

One of the most prevalent and often overlooked health hazards at the workplace are communicable diseases like colds and the flu. An outbreak can certainly knock out large portions of a workforce so it’s best to take this seriously. If the doctor advises you to take sick leave, don’t come in to work and put everyone at risk. To avoid causing or getting an infection, wear a face mask when you’re not well, wash and sanitise your hands regularly and don’t share cutlery with your colleagues.

Getting Struck By Objects

Falling objects are a definite hazard in places like construction sites, which is why hard hats are compulsory. However, you can just as easily get hit by objects falling inside office buildings. Whether indoors or outdoors, be aware of your surroundings at all times. Be extra cautious around precarious structures, suspended objects, tall stacks and high shelves. If you think that something could be a potential safety hazard, bring it to your employer’s attention.

Slips And Falls

Slips and falls can happen anywhere but casualties often occur at construction sites as well as facilities where wet floors and liquid spills are commonplace. To overcome these hazards, be cautious at all times in areas where slips and falls easily occur. Use appropriate footwear and if there are handrails, rope supports or non-slip mats, use them. You should also be extra careful around stairways. If proper safety aids are lacking, talk to your employer about implementing the necessary precautions.

Ergonomic Injuries

Ergonomic problems are some of the most common incidences in the workplace, affecting people in manufacturing, service and office settings. Ergonomic injuries are often caused by a repetitive motion or simply by sitting at a workstation for too long. To prevent aches and pains, be sure that your legs reach the ground when you’re sitting. You should also use a wrist rest and have lower back support on your chair. Sit comfortably and avoid straining your neck, eyes or back.

Transportation Accidents

Work-related hazards can actually occur outside the workplace particularly during the commute to and from work. Mental or physical exhaustion, sleep deprivation and cell phone usage are behind many preventable transportation accidents. To avoid falling victim to such accidents, try to manage your time and tasks effectively so that you are able to get adequate rest and sleep. If you are constantly overworked, talk to your employer about it and don’t make business calls while driving.

Toxic Exposure

Those who work in manufacturing are often risking toxic exposure due to gas and chemical leaks. However, you may also be at risk of coming in contact with dangerous substances like asbestos, heavy metals and carbon monoxide. This is especially true if you work in an old building or a place with air circulation problems. Avoid toxic exposure by encouraging your employers to use non-toxic substitutes. You should also wear safety gear (masks, gloves etc) when handling or working near toxic materials. If you feel ill (numb hands, dizziness, nausea etc), seek medical help immediately.

Hearing Loss

This form of injury, which is most common in manufacturing settings, is a problem that develops over time. Constant exposure to loud noises and high decibels can rob you of your hearing and by the time you notice it, the damage is permanent. Fortunately, hearing loss can be easily prevented with the use of headphones or earplugs to block out the noise.

Other Accidents Waiting To Happen

There’s an old Malay saying that goes, “Ill fortune has no scent,” which means if something bad is about to happen, you probably won’t see it coming. However, by being aware and responsible you can avoid a range of accidents at the workplace. For example, don’t operate heavy machinery when you’re tired or distracted; be wary of machinery with unprotected components and don’t work outdoors in dangerous weather conditions.

While some health and safety hazards occur more often in some workplaces and occupations than others, a little knowledge and diligence can go a long way in preventing needless harm to yourself and your colleagues. If you think that there are health and safety risks in your workplace, take an active role in ensuring that management is aware of them and that the necessary precautions are implemented. In addition, your fellow employees should also receive awareness training on the dangers they face at work.

Averting Accidents

As a general rule, every workplace should undertake what’s called a job hazard analysis and risk mapping. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as it sounds! All it involves is a thorough, objective examination of all daily office procedures, routines and facilities. By taking a fresh look at how people interact with equipment and their work environment, employees and employers will be able to identify areas that require protection or preventive measures, which will effectively avert accidents at work.

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