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I want you to play two games from your childhood and how GHS helps


Ok Little Johnny

come to the front of the class, well no this isn’t a Little Johnny joke and although Little Johnny has been mentioned a few times in your adult life for better or worse here is what he learned, no joke!

When we think back to our childhood we played and played when we could rain or shine, night or day our brains were used to see, smell touch and hear things to enhance our skills.   Two every important and critical competency games were I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE SOMETHING THAT IS!, and then it was off to school and the teacher would ask us to play along in class with SHOW AND TELL.   So why are these childhood games pre worker competency requirements, well read on to find out.

I spy with my little eye something that is, it was the first learning item in spotting the strange or unusual in your environment like workplace hazards.  It allowed us to see thing hidden or made our minds work in seeing things either in our environment or outside like pre-job hazard assessments.  Our asker would already know or see the item it was up to us to sharpen our skills (like competency training) and see the same thing, hence our mentors at home just like our mentor at work was saying when you look what do you see, or smell or hear.   So as you can see safety was training you for the workforce at an early stage to be OBSERVANT in our world.

The second step was taught by our next mentor our teacher in grade school in SHOW AND TELL.  What show and tell taught us was that we would bring something common to us or unusual and we would tell everyone in class our peers (or fellow workers) what that item was like a tool box or safety meeting.  The showing was just as critical as the telling.  The telling was our chance to display our competency and knowledge on the item and second having the courage within to stand up and talk with people ( our first step in public speaking) it allowed us to say yes I saw this hazard and it could you affect you in this way and why and people  ( fellow workers would listen).  The first time or two was always nerve racking it was hard to stand up and say your mind or tell folks because you didn’t know what people would think and your knowledge was challenged by the other students ( workers).  Some would stare in wonder others would giggle and laugh as the teacher ( mentor , supervisor) would say pay attention  and learn,

Well looking for hazards at work is like both games, I spy ( looking for hazards) and show and tell (tell or writing down what you see and why it is a hazard.

So lets start with understanding  the topic in worker education and GHS

Employers have a responsibility to protect workers against health and safety hazards at work. Workers have the right to know about potential hazards and to refuse work that they believe is dangerous. Workers also have a responsibility to work safely with hazardous materials.

Health and safety hazards exist in every workplace. Some are easily identified and corrected, while others create extremely dangerous situations that could be a threat to your life or long-term health. The best way to protect yourself is to learn to recognize and prevent hazards in your workplace. The meaning of the word hazard can be confusing. Often dictionaries do not give specific definitions or combine it with the term “risk”. For example, one dictionary defines hazard as “a danger or risk” which helps explain why many people use the terms interchangeably.

There are many definitions for hazard but the more common definition when talking about workplace health and safety is:

hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone under certain conditions at work.

Basically, a hazard can cause harm or adverse effects (to individuals as health effects or to organizations as property or equipment losses).

Sometimes a hazard is referred to as being the actual harm or the health effect it caused rather than the hazard. For example, the disease tuberculosis (TB) might be called a hazard by some but in general the TB-causing bacteria would be considered the “hazard” or “hazardous biological agent”.

There are four main types of workplace hazards:
Physical hazards are the most common hazards and are present in most workplaces at some time. Examples include: frayed electrical cords, unguarded machinery, exposed moving parts, constant loud noise, vibrations, working from ladders, scaffolding or heights, spills, tripping hazards.

Ergonomic hazards occur when the type of work you do, your body position and/or your working conditions put a strain on your body. They are difficult to identify because you don’t immediately recognize the harm they are doing to your health. Examples include: poor lighting, improperly adjusted workstations and chairs, frequent lifting, repetitive or awkward movements.

Chemical hazards are present when you are exposed to any chemical preparation (solid, liquid or gas) in the workplace. Examples include: cleaning products and solvents, vapours and fumes, carbon monoxide or other gases, gasoline or other flammable materials.

Biological hazards come from working with people, animals or infectious plant material. Examples include: blood or other bodily fluids, bacteria and viruses, insect bites, animal and bird droppings.

Poor work practices create hazards – examples of unsafe work practices commonly found in the workplace include:

Report hazards immediately
Everyone in a workplace shares responsibility for ensuring that their work environment is safe and healthy. Some hazards pose an immediate danger and others take a longer time to become apparent. But both types of hazards must be fixed. If you are aware of a hazard in your workplace, you should report it promptly to your supervisor, employer or health and safety representative. Once a hazard has been identified, your employer and/or supervisor has a duty to assess the problem and eliminate any hazard that could injure workers.

Workplace inspections prevent hazards
Regular workplace inspections are another important factor in preventing injuries and illnesses. By critically examining all aspects of the workplace, inspections identify and record hazards that must be addressed and corrected.

A workplace inspection should include:

What is WHMIS?
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a Canadian hazard communication system that provides employers and workers with information about many hazardous materials (referred to as controlled products) that are produced, handled, stored, used or disposed of in the workplace. The goal of WHMIS is to reduce accidents and prevent health hazards.

WHMIS in Canada addresses three important areas of workplace safety:

  1. Labels– All hazardous or controlled products must carry labels that clearly identify the product and provide hazard information about it. The label must indicate whether a workplace SDS (see below) is available in the workplace.
  2. Safety Data Sheets (SDS)– An SDS must be provided for every controlled product in your workplace. The SDS provides much more detailed information than a label.
  3. Worker education– Every employer is expected to develop and implement an up-to-date education program to enable workers to understand and use the information that is provided on the labels and SDS. This program should be reviewed at least once a year, and whenever there is a change in conditions or new hazard information concerning any hazardous substances in the workplace. Employers must keep written records of employee education.

An effective program for controlling hazardous substances includes the following elements:


Now take it one more step is it the only hazards you see what else could something else be a hazard?

Safety Hazards:

Safety Hazards are unsafe working conditions that that can cause injury, illness and death. Safety hazards are the most common workplace hazards.

Some hazards are more likely to be present in some workplaces than others, and depending on the work that you do, there will be hazards that are more or less relevant to your business.

What are the most common workplace hazards?

There are many types of workplace hazards, which tend to come under four main categories:

  • physical hazards – the most common workplace hazards, including vibration, noise and slips, trips and falls;
  • ergonomic hazards – physical factors that harm the musculoskeletal system, such as repetitive movement, manual handling and poor body positioning;
  • chemical hazards – any hazardous substance that can cause harm to your employees;
  • biological hazards – bacteria and viruses that can cause health effects, such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and Legionnaire’s disease.

Common health risks

Some of the most common health risks associated with workplace hazards include:

  • breathing problems;
  • skin irritation;
  • damage to muscles, bones and joints;
  • hearing damage;
  • reduced wellbeing.

How to prevent workplace hazards

The best way to protect yourself and your employees from workplace hazards is to identify and manage them and take reasonable steps to prevent their potential to harm.

In order to control workplace hazards and eliminate or reduce the risk, you should take the following steps:

  • identify the hazard by carrying out a workplace risk assessment;
  • determine how employees might be at risk;
  • evaluate the risks;
  • record and review hazards at least annually, or earlier if something changes.

Workplace hazards can come from a wide range of sources. General examples include any substance, material, process, practice, etc that has the ability to cause harm or adverse health effect to a person under certain conditions.

As shown, workplace hazards also include practices or conditions that release uncontrolled energy like:

  • an object that could fall from a height (potential or gravitational energy),
  • a run-away chemical reaction (chemical energy),
  • the release of compressed gas or steam (pressure; high temperature),
  • entanglement of hair or clothing in rotating equipment (kinetic energy), or
  • contact with electrodes of a battery or capacitor (electrical energy).


They include:

  • Anything that can cause spills or tripping such as cords running across the floor or ice
  • Anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
  • Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch
  • Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
  • Confined spaces

Biological Hazards:

Biological Hazards include exposure to harm or disease associated with working with animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Workplaces with these kinds of hazards include, but are not limited to, work in schools, day care facilities, colleges and universities, hospitals, laboratories, emergency response, nursing homes, or various outdoor occupations.

Types of things you may be exposed to include:

  • Blood and other body fluids
  • Fungi/mold
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Plants
  • Insect bites
  • Animal and bird droppings

Physical Hazards:

Physical hazards can be any factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.

They include:

  • Radiation: including ionizing, non-ionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radiowaves, etc.)
  • High exposure to sunlight / ultraviolet rays
  • Temperature extremes – hot and cold
  • Constant loud noise

Ergonomic Hazards:

Occur when the type of work, body positions and working conditions put a strain on your body.  They are the hardest to spot since you don’t always immediately notice the strain on your body or the harm that these hazards pose.  Short-term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following the exposure, but long term exposure can result in serious long-term illness.

Ergonomic Hazards include:

  • Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs
  • Frequent lifting
  • Poor posture
  • Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive
  • Having to use too much force, especially if you have to do it frequently
  • Vibration

Chemical Hazards:

Are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid or gas).  Some are safer than others, but to some workers who are more sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems.

Beware of:

  • Liquids like cleaning products, paints, acids,solvents – ESPECIALLY if chemicals are in an unlabeled container!
  • Vapors and fumes that come from welding or exposure to solvents
  • Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide and helium
  • Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents, and explosive chemicals
  • Pesticides

Work Organization Hazards:

Hazards or stressors that cause stress (short term effects) and strain (long term effects).  These are hazards associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and/or respect, etc.

Examples include:

  • Workload demands
  • Workplace violence
  • Intensity and/or pace
  • Respect (or lack thereof)
  • Flexibility
  • Control or say about things
  • Social support or relations
  • Sexual harassment

Remember that these lists are non-exhaustive.  When you are completing a workplace hazard assessment, take into account these six larger categories to think of factors that may affect your workers in their particular circumstances.  And that a occupational hazard is a thing or situation with the potential to harm a worker. Occupational hazards can be divided into two categories: safety hazards that cause accidents that physically injure workers, and health hazards which result in the development of disease. It is important to note that a “hazard” only represents a potential to cause harm. Whether it actually does cause harm will depend on circumstances, such as the toxicity of the health hazard, exposure amount, and duration. Hazards can also be rated according to the severity of the harm they cause – a significant hazard being one with the potential to cause a critical injury or death.

Terry Penney

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