5 types of workplace hazards

5 types of workplace hazards prevention and elimination are not only necessary for employee safety, it is the legal responsibility of the organization under the OSHA General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that could cause death or serious harm to its employees.

Understand and be aware of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) 5 types of workplace hazards and take steps to mitigate employee risk which may cause illness…among workers or citizens of the community.

Minimizing or eliminating workplace hazards doesn’t need to be time-consuming or expensive. Being aware of potential hazards can increase productivity, prevent illness, reduce days off and save lives. And you can get started today after the identification of the hazard described in this blog. 5 types of workplace hazards

A simple definition of 5 types of workplace hazards5 types of workplace hazards

“Something in the workplace with the potential to cause harm”

Note that a hazard is the “something” that causes harm. If a worker engages in welding activities and receives an electrical shock due to the damaged cord, then electricity is the hazard, not the damaged cord. It’s electricity that causes the damage.

The damaged cord is the failure of the controls or preventive measures. If the cord was not damaged, then the hazard would still be present (electricity still runs through the equipment) but it would be properly controlled and electric shock would not occur.

5 types of workplace hazards can be broadly classified:

  1. Physical hazards
  2. Chemical hazards
  3. Biological hazards
  4. Psychological hazards and
  5. Ergonomic hazards

What is a physical hazard in the workplace?

A physical hazard can injure workers with or without contact. The different forms of energy (Physical) that can be present in the work environment include Electromagnetic (ionising and non-ionizing radiation), working in extremely hot or cold conditions, and being constantly exposed to loud noises and vibrations. Other examples of physical hazards such as electricity, working at heights, tripping hazards, moving parts of machines, vehicles etc.

Why noise is a hazard?

5 types of workplace hazards

The effects of continuous noise that is on the body are:
Reduction of hearing capacity, almost always bilateral, which begins at frequencies of 4,000 Hz, is irreversible and does not progress if exposure ceases. Temporary or permanent hearing loss, unilateral or bilateral.

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  1. Safety of work at height
  2. Health and safety training
  3. Welding safety precautions
  4. Incident investigation method
  5. Electrical safety hazard

Increased respiratory rate, high blood pressure, gastric, visual, thyroid effects, sleep disorders, irritability, lack of attention, slower reaction speed, etc. The established legal limit is 80 dB as the equivalent daily noise level; 140 dB for the peak level.

How can we act in the workplace to reduce the level of dangerous noise?

  • Isolation of the worker,
  • Increasing the distance between the source and the receiver…
  • Engineering control: Acoustic barriers, noise-absorbing materials, machine enclosure,
  • Administrative control: information and training,
  • PPE: use of earplugs or muff

Is vibration an example of a physical hazard?

5 types of workplace hazards


Vibration is the oscillatory movement of a solid body. What characterizes vibration from a physical point of view is the frequency and amplitude of its oscillation. The effects that vibrations cause in the body vary depending on their frequency.
Frequency Effect:
Very low: Dizziness, vomiting, central nervous system disorders
Short: Lumbar pathology, dizziness, vision disturbances…
high: Scaphoid necrosis, elbow osteoarthritis, Raynaud’s syndrome, hand aesthesia, gastropathy…

To limit the risk of vibration in the workplace we will act:

  • Proper maintenance of machines, anti-vibration tools, process engineering, etc.
  • The interposition of insulating materials. 5 types of workplace hazards
  • Information and training, adequate PPE, job rotation to reduce exposure time, health surveillance… 5 types of workplace hazards

Heat stress physical health hazards

5 types of workplace hazards

The human body maintains its internal temperature constant and for this, it has different regulating elements. The various environmental circumstances interact with the body by transmitting heat or cold, depending on the case. When we talk about heat, this transmission is done by convection or by radiation.

There are factors such as relative humidity, air speed and average radiant temperature that, in addition to air temperature, determine the effort that the body has to make to maintain a stable internal temperature. 5 types of workplace hazards

In a situation of high environmental temperature, working outdoors, heavy sweating leads to dehydration and loss of salt from the body. Sweating is a phenomenon that favours the dissipation of internal heat. 5 types of workplace hazards

The organism is subjected to high-temperature sweats and the air current when in contact with the sweat, cools the skin. However, when there is no fluid (due to heavy sweating) in the body for sweating, the internal heat is not dissipated and what we call a “heat stroke” (the last stage of heat stress) can occur more efficiently, which is a situation of urgent medical attention.

To help us in this type of assessment there is the so-called “WBGT index”, in which a special thermometer measures the dry, wet and globe or radiant temperatures. This index yields a result that we relate in the corresponding graph with the metabolism or energy consumption of the individual, which varies according to the physical activity that they develop. 5 types of workplace hazards

As a result of this comparison, we will be able to know, in a given activity, how much time of each hour of work the worker must rest, to compensate for the thermal stress to which he is subjected. 5 types of workplace hazards

When the type of work favours exposure to low temperatures, we can be faced with what we call cold stress. In this case, the influencing factors are low temperatures, contact with water, airspeed and the type of clothing.

The preventive measures in both cases are breaks, proper clothing and footwear, heat/cold stress shelter, cold/warm water, job rotation, training and an adequate diet…

Is radiation a physical hazard?

Ionizing radiation: They are very high-frequency electromagnetic waves, capable of causing ionization (generation of electrically charged parts, one positive and one negative), breaking the atomic bonds that hold the molecules together in the cells.

Non-ionizing radiation: These are electromagnetic waves of lower frequency than ionizing waves and that lack sufficient energy to break intracellular atomic bonds. They can be ultraviolet radiation, visible, and infrared radiation, radiofrequency and microwave fields, and electric and magnetic fields.

5 types of workplace hazards

Ionizing radiation

Producing physicochemical changes in the cell that can cause its death or transformation. This gives rise to tumours whose appearance may be more or less immediate or may be delayed for years. If the genetic material is affected, it can be transferred incompletely or defectively to the offspring, causing abnormal cell development and/or tumours.

Non-ionizing radiation

Influence on health
Ultraviolet radiation
It is a form of optical radiation with shorter wavelengths and more energetic photons (particles of radiation) than visible light. Most light sources also emit ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation is present in sunlight and is also emitted by a large number of ultraviolet sources used in industry, science, and medicine.

These are considered harmful to health since they are penetrating, pass through the atmosphere even if they are buffered by it, and are the cause of skin lesions of varying severity.

Artificial: arc welding (can cause serious injuries in three minutes), black light lamps (used for the identification of banknotes), germicidal lamps, and general lighting (fluorescent and halogen).

Effects: Erythema, burn, photosensitization, Photokeratitis, mutagenic, arc eye and carcinogenic to the skin…
Preventive action: Avoid exposure, wear suitable clothing and protection, etc.

Infrared radiation

Part of the spectrum of non-ionizing radiation between microwaves and visible light.
Sources. Sunlight, filament and arc lamps, molten iron, infrared lamps in medicine…
Effects: Lens opacities and skin burns.

What are the chemical hazards in the workplace?

Chemical hazards are one of the 5 types of workplace hazards. Things that cause harm due to their chemical content. Characteristics (eg lead, mercury, sulfuric acid, silica, cement dust). Workers can be exposed to chemicals in liquids, gases, vapours, fumes, and particulate matter. Chemical hazards include acids, pesticides, flammable liquids, welding fumes, and silica dust….

Substances that during manufacture, handling, transport, storage or use in the form of dust, smoke, gas or vapour, with irritating, corrosive, asphyxiating or toxic effects and in quantities that are likely to harm the health of the people who contact them are called chemical hazards.

5 types of workplace hazards
Effects on the body of some pollutants:
Type of effect Pollutant
Irritants: Sulfuric Acid, Hydrochloric, Ozone, Chlorine, etc.
suffocating: CO2, CO, N, Pb, Butane…
Anaesthetics and narcotics: Trichlorethylene, Ethyl Ether, Toluene, Xylene
Sensitizing: Isocyanates, Amines, Vegetable Fibers, Powder…
carcinogens: Benzene, Asbestos, Beryllium…
systemic toxins: Hg, Mn, Pb, Cd, Chloroform, Nitrosamides…
corrosive: Acids and alkalis
Pneumoconiosis: Silica, Cotton Dust, Asbestos…

Rout of entry

The pathways through which a chemical can enter the body are:

  1. Inhalation
  2. Ingestion
  3. Injection
  4. Absorption

The entry of a contaminant into the body produces intoxication in the worker. This poisoning can be “acute” when it is intense exposure to a high concentration, or “chronic” if it has been constant exposure to small concentrations of contaminant. The first gives rise to an accident at work that is usually of serious prognosis and the second is usually the cause of an occupational disease.

Inhalation is the most common route of entry. It must be taken into account that the lungs of a single individual, through their alveoli, present a huge contact surface for any contaminant. Therefore, the respiratory route is a very fast penetration route for any polluting product.
The dermal route is less important. The skin is a natural barrier to many substances, but some contaminants can pass through it.
The digestive tract is usually accidental. No one ingests a toxic product voluntarily, although some reprehensible habits, such as smoking or eating in the workplace, without having washed their hands, etc., can lead to certain concentrations of the contaminant with which they are working in the mouth.

Finally, the parenteral route, that is, through punctures, wounds, etc., which is also accidental, is very infrequent in contamination by a chemical product.

Risk Control

To reduce the concentration of the pollutant we must act on the following three variables:

  • Elimination of the substance if possible
  • Product substitution.
  • Training and information that allows you to know and combat the risks.
  • Use of personal protective equipment
  • Wet methods of work quickly settle the dust.
  • Proper maintenance of the equipment, etc.
  • General ventilation cleans and renews the air in the room.
  • Localized extraction traps the contaminant at its source.
  • Adequate cleaning of all surfaces and the premises in general.

Biological hazards in the workplace

Biological hazards are one of the 5 types of workplace hazards. Living microorganisms that cause disease and health problems (eg. Hepatitis B virus (HBV), Legionella bacteria (responsible for Legionnaires’ disease), and rabies virus. The types of biological agents that we can find are:

Virus: Hepatitis, rabies…
Bacteria: Anthrax, tetanus, tuberculosis…
Protozoa: Amebiasis, toxoplasmosis…
Mushrooms: candidiasis
Worms: Helminthiasis, hookworm, chigger…

5 types of workplace hazards

Corrective action

  • Information on possible infectious diseases in this professional group.
  • Potential effects, whether toxic or allergic, may be present in that job.
  • Knowledge of diseases that any worker has suffered and that may be related to work.

The actions that will allow us to control the biological agent are:

  • Substitute the dangerous agent for another without danger or less risk.
  • Exposure of the fewest number of workers possible
  • Standardized waste treatment.
  • Signalling of hazardous areas.
  • Emergency plan for accidents.
  • Measures to prevent the dispersion of the agent.

The preventive measures that we must adopt are:

  • Prohibition of eating, drinking or smoking in risk areas.
  • Proper protective clothing.
  • Bathrooms are equipped with disinfectants and eye wash.
  • Adequate maintenance and cleaning of the protection elements.
  • Specific work procedures and knowledge of all workers.
  • Time for personal hygiene (10 minutes) before eating and before going out.
  • Separate changing rooms for work clothes. Special area for PPE storage.
  • Special washing of clothes by the company.

The company is obliged to:

  • If there are effective vaccines, offer them to the worker, leaving a written record.
  • Risk assessment, including method and type of measurements and appropriate tests.
  • List of workers exposed to biological agents from groups three or four.
  • Record of exposures, accidents and incidents.
  • Properly established and guarded archive of medical records.

Other obligations of the employer:

Immediate information to the labour and health authorities of any incident that could release a dangerous biological agent for man.
In everything related to the information and training of the worker in the company of everything that has to do with the prevention of occupational risks, it is important to note that the employer is obliged to:

  • Inform workers and their representatives about any measure that affects health and safety.
  • Accurately inform workers about potential risks, precautions to be taken, hygiene provisions, use of clothing and PPE, and measures to be taken in the event of incidents.
  • Inform workers of any accident that could release a biological agent that is dangerous to their health.
  • The worker is also obliged to inform the employer in the event of an accident.

What is an ergonomic hazard?

Ergonomic hazards are one of the 5 types of workplace hazards. Stress and strain are placed on the body through posture and movement (for example, frequent repetitive handling of small boxes leading to inflammation of the tendons in the elbow joint).

Ergonomics-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for 33% of all employee injury and illness cases. These types of hazards occur when repetitive work, the type of work, or a certain position stresses the body. These are the most difficult dangers to detect because problems accumulate over time.

5 types of workplace hazards
Ergonomics is the science that studies how to adapt the relationship of the human being with his environment. However, there is a series of actions that involve risks to people’s health, which affects the ergonomics of the surrounding system. In this sense, office jobs provide a series of components that have the possibility of entailing ergonomic risks that are affecting the health and well-being of the employee.

Therefore, the objective of this review article is to identify the factors that cause ergonomic risks associated with the administrative staff’s job. This has been carried out through a systematic documentary review that allows transcribing the results of existing studies in the scientific literature on the subject to be treated.

Psychological Hazards:

Psychological hazards are one of the 5 types of workplace hazards. Things that have the potential to cause harm to the mind rather than the body (eg, exposure to highly traumatic events that can leave a person unable to adjust to a normal life after the event, a condition sometimes called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)).

For example, a truck driving down a construction road is a physical hazard because it could run over a worker. Sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) is a chemical hazard because it is a highly alkaline chemical capable of causing corrosion. Psychosocial risks and work stress are among the most difficult problems in the field of safety and health at work.

Around half of European workers consider stress to be a common element in their workplaces, contributing to around half of all working days lost. Like many other issues related to mental illness, stress is often misunderstood or stigmatized. However, if psychosocial risks and stress are viewed as organizational problems, and not as personal defects, they can be managed like any other health and safety risk at work.

What are psychosocial risks and stress?

Psychosocial risks stem from poor work design, organization and management, as well as the poor social context of work, and can lead to negative psychological, physical and social outcomes such as job stress, burnout or job loss. and depression. Some examples of psychosocial risks are:

  • excessive workloads;
  • conflicting demands and lack of clarity of the functions of the position;
  • lack of participation in making decisions that affect the worker and lack of influence in the way the work is carried out;
  • poor management of organizational changes, job insecurity;
  • ineffective communication, lack of support from management or colleagues;
  • psychological and sexual harassment, and violence exerted by third parties.

When analyzing the demands of the job, it is important not to confuse psychosocial risks such as excessive workload with situations that, although stimulating and sometimes challenging, offer a work environment in which the worker is supported, adequately trained and motivated. to do your job to the best of your ability.

A supportive psychosocial environment fosters good performance and personal development, as well as the mental and physical well-being of the worker.

Workers feel stress when the demands of their job are greater than their ability to cope. In addition to mental health problems, workers under prolonged periods of stress can develop serious physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal problems.

For the organization, the negative effects translate into poor overall company performance, increased absenteeism, presenteeism (workers coming to work when sick but unable to perform effectively), and higher rates of accidents and injuries.

Sick leaves tend to be longer than those from other causes, and work-related stress can contribute to higher rates of early retirement. The costs it entails for companies and society are substantial and have been estimated at billions of euros at the national level.


Must be adopted hazard identification methods in the organization. Several methods can be used in hazard identification, such as task analysis, reference to legal guidance, manufacturer information and incident data.

Task analysis is a useful method of identifying 5 types of workplace hazards, as it allows hazards to be detected before work begins, rather than that once the work started.

5 types of workplace hazards.

Knowledge of the legal regulations that apply to a particular workplace will go a long way in identifying significant dangers. For example, knowledge of the law relating to confined space will enable a competent adviser to identify which space can be defined as confined space and which can be ignored.

Manufacturer information and Incident data can help identify 5 types of workplace hazards. The main limitation here is that a hazard can be very significant but it may not have caused any damage to the organization yet and therefore may go unnoticed.



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