Of all the hazards in your workplace, Physical Hazards might the least obvious. Despite their name, Physical Hazards aren’t always something that you can see or touch. In this installment of our “Workplace Hazards” series, we’ll take a look at how you can identify and prepare for Physical Hazards.
HOW TO KNOW IF SOMETHING IS A PHYSICAL HAZARD
Anything in the environment that can cause a body harm can fall under the category of Physical Hazards. Environmental dangers include:
- Radiation: including ionizing, non-ionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radio waves, etc.)
- High exposure to sunlight / ultraviolet rays
- Temperature extremes – hot and cold
- Constant loud noise
To know if something is a Physical Hazard or not, just think about if it could cause physical harm to an employee. This could include common workplace objects like flammable items, or objects that may violently react to other environmental factors.
QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT PHYSICAL HAZARDS WHEN ASSESSING YOUR WORKPLACE
- What kinds of environmental exposure do my employees face?
- Do my employees work around potentially reactive or explosive chemicals or objects?
- What are the long-term effects of working in this environment?
- How long are my employees being exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors?
- Do my employees have equipment that protects their hearing if necessary?
- What protections are in place for potential extremes in temperature?
- Could the equipment that my employees work with pose a risk to their long-term health?
WHAT TO DO ONCE PHYSICAL HAZARDS HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED
Once you’ve identified physical hazards in your workplace, it’s important to reduce the risk posed to your employees. Whenever it’s not possible to completely eliminate a Physical Hazard from the workplace, you should introduce controls to reduce the risks involved.
ADMINISTRATIVE VS. ENGINEERING CONTROLS
Engineering controls reduce risk by reducing or eliminating risk through physical means. Examples of engineering controls for Physical Hazards include:
- Providing safety equipment to employees that reduces their exposure to the Physical Hazard
- Reduce noises and vibrations present in the workplace
- Place barriers between employees and Physical Hazards such as radiation or microwaves
- Provide proper ventilation and air conditioning for employees
- Insulate any surfaces that could be prone to extremes in temperature
Administrative controls reduce risk by changing work processes and activities to make them more safe. Some examples of administrative controls for Physical Hazards are:
- Handling smaller quantities of dangerous and reactive chemicals
- Spending less time in areas of exposure
- Working away from noise when possible
- Provide employees with rest breaks away from Physical Hazards
- Train employees to recognize and avoid Physical Hazards
HOW WORKING ALONE INCREASES RISK FROM PHYSICAL HAZARDS
Working alone can take your employees away from help that would otherwise be available. Lone workers are also disadvantaged when it comes to recognizing and responding to the Physical Hazards in their environment. In these situations, a check-in based monitoring system like SafetyLine provides security to your employees by calling for help even when they’re not able to.
When you’re assessing the Hazards in a workplace, remember to keep in mind the Physical Hazards that you can’t see. Hazards that aren’t obvious can pose a danger to even the most experienced employee, so it’s important to plan ahead and take precautions.