As an employer or business owner, your employees are the lifeblood of your organization. Their health and well-being are not just paramount, but they are intertwined with your business’s success. After all, healthy and thriving employees translate to increased productivity and a more positive workplace environment.
However, your employees may be susceptible to various occupational hazards, which can significantly impact their health and your business objectives. From physical risks to environmental factors, understanding these common health hazards is the first step in protecting yourself and your employees.
Data shows that about 340 million workplace accidents occur each year, with an additional 160 million individuals falling victim to work-related illnesses. Taken from the International Labor Organization, these numbers are a startling reminder that ensuring the health of your employees is essential.
In this blog, we’ll cover common workplace health risks and offer practical tips for employee safety.
Fire and Explosive Hazards
Fire and explosive hazards in the workplace pose grave risks to employee health and safety. Fires can erupt from various sources, including faulty wiring, electrical malfunctions, or improper storage of flammable materials. Such incidents demand immediate attention and swift action to prevent severe injuries.
You must educate employees about fire safety protocols and conduct regular fire drills to prepare them for emergencies. Employers must also address potential explosive hazards by safely handling and storing volatile materials to reduce the risk of accidents.
Staying vigilant and having well-defined emergency evacuation plans in place is vital. Preventive measures combined with employee awareness and training are key to maintaining a safe workplace.
Employers and firefighters typically utilize various methods to extinguish fires within office premises. However, you should note that not all types of fire extinguishers are equally effective. Some can extinguish fires but may pose health risks to humans. For instance, the Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) firefighting foam is known to cause severe health risks to individuals.
TorHoerman Law reports that AFFF foam contains per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals, which are frequently referred to as ‘eternal chemicals.’ These substances exhibit no degradation, enduring within both the environment and the human bloodstream indefinitely. Plus, there is evidence indicating a clear link between PFAS chemicals and various forms of cancer.
Individuals who have been exposed to the harmful effects of AFFF have taken the initiative to hold manufacturers accountable for their actions. They are hiring experienced lawyers to file AFFF lawsuits. By staying informed about the AFFF lawsuit update, these lawyers adjust their strategies to achieve favorable outcomes for the victims. These trends necessitate the adoption of alternative fire extinguishers to ensure overall safety.
Ergonomic hazards in the workplace relate to how your employees’ bodies interact with their job setup. Poor ergonomics can lead to back pain and other aches and pains. These issues can arise from incorrect chair and desk heights, poor keyboard or mouse placement, or even improper screen positioning.
Repetitive movements, like typing for long hours with inadequate wrist support, can strain muscles and tendons. Extended periods of sitting without proper back support can also put stress on the lower back and lead to back problems. Thus, proper ergonomics is crucial for preventing these common workplace-related health issues.
Moreover, ergonomic hazards can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) when your employees repeatedly put their bodies in movements that strain their muscles and joints. Incorrect workstation setup or poor posture can lead to issues like carpal tunnel syndrome and back pain. These MSDs can lead to discomfort, pain, and reduced productivity, affecting their overall well-being and work performance.
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 26.9 cases of work-related MSDs per 10,000 full-time workers in 2020. In 2021, the highest workers’ compensation costs of $13.3 billion were attributed to injuries resulting from excessive physical strain related to external factors, particularly material handling. Employers spent $1.7 billion on injuries from repetitive microtasks (e.g., typing) that take seconds or minutes, leading to health issues.
The cost of ergonomic hazards is substantial. In a volatile business environment compounded by inflation, it can become even more daunting. Therefore, you must consider implementing effective measures to address these hazards.
In the modern workplace, psychosocial hazards have gained attention due to their impact on employee well-being. Stress, bullying, harassment, and toxic work environments can severely affect mental health. Employers must proactively address these issues to ensure a healthy and productive workforce.
Work-related stress, often stemming from excessive workloads and tight deadlines, can lead to anxiety and depression. Toxic work environments, characterized by negativity and hostility, create additional stressors that should not be ignored.
As per the 2023 Work in America Survey, nearly 19% of respondents indicated that they had encountered workplace bullying. In the same year, 22% of workers reported experiencing workplace harassment within the past 12 months. These alarming statistics emphasize the urgency for employers to implement strategies to mitigate psychosocial hazards.
As an employer, you can focus on creating a supportive and respectful work environment. This will help your employees feel valued and respected, positively contributing to their mental well-being.
Electrical hazards in the workplace demand vigilant attention to safeguard employee well-being. According to the 2023 Fluke Safety Survey, only 29% of workers believe that companies adequately provide electrical safety training. This indicates a concerning gap in knowledge and preparedness regarding electrical risks.
Faulty wiring, mishandling electrical equipment, and insufficient training can result in hazardous conditions. Employers should make electrical safety a top priority. The survey also highlights that a significant 89.5% of workers see the potential for improvement in electrical safety practices within their workplaces. This emphasizes the urgent need for enhanced training and awareness.
Regular electrical safety training and adherence to safety protocols are crucial. Employees need to know how to use electrical equipment safely and what to do in case of an emergency. Electrical hazards can be mitigated by fostering a culture of awareness and responsible use of electricity in the workplace.
Safeguarding employee health in the workplace is of paramount importance. By addressing these health hazards, you can create a safer and more productive environment. Implementing the right safety measures, providing proper training, and staying informed can ensure the well-being of everyone in the workplace.