What is Physical hazards at workplace?
Physical hazards at workplace are types of hazards that can accidentally harm a worker.
In other words, we can define it as, Factors at a working environment that harm workers without necessarily touching.
In this article, we will discuss different types in detail. We will also discuss how to avoid these types of hazards at the workplace.
why is physical hazard dangerous?
Physical hazard is dangerous because it can cause losses, pain, injuries and death. It is also costly to the organization.
Let’s take one of the physical hazards, stress, as an example and see why is it dangerous?.
Say we have a worker in a big organization who is working under stress, he is a driver of a bus.
The driver task is clear and easy, at the morning and afternoon he drives 25 workers from and to the working site. Easy and clear task! isn’t it?
Now ,Jimmy the driver, is under stress, I don’t know why. If one day while Jimmy is driving to the working site, just like every day for the last 15 years, he involve in an accident!
If he, and the organization of course, is lucky the bus wouldn’t crash and no body will get hurt. Do you think the workers energy will be as normal this day? Probably no! There output will be lower than a normal day.
In the worst case, if Jimmy still working under stress, he may this time involve in a bigger accident! the bus would crash and the workers would get hurt and even die.
This short story happens. doesn’t it?. We can see clearly how dangerous is physical hazard.
If physical hazard can cause losses in both lives and assets in a clear easy task, you can imagine what may happen if Jimmy, the driver, isn’t a driver of a bus, but a driver of a heavy equipment like a crane, or even if he is an operator of a big machine or an electrician.
Yep, physical hazard is dangerous and can lead to disasters bigger than we can imagine.
where does physical hazard come from?
Physical hazard come from a variety of sources depending on the type of the hazard.
Physical hazard is exist in almost all workplaces.
- Stress hazard comes from bad work management, personal issues and bullying from careless coworkers.
- Electrical hazard almost exist at all workplaces even at office. It comes basically from the need of electrical energy to run machines and devices. Electrical panels and power cables are common shape of electrical hazard.
- Noise physical hazard comes from machines and trucks, that are a must at factories, construction sites and some workplaces.
- Height hazard comes from tasks that require the worker to implement on height, like repairing street lighting poles. We can’t fix it on the ground level.
- Temperature hazard comes from the weather conditions that we can’t control, or comes from a source at the workplace itself like iron and steel mills where furnaces produces high temperature all the time.
- Radiation hazard comes from radioactive sources that come out of underground oil and other sources. In my work, Oil company, radiation do exist at oil processing areas. Workers are subjected to it for long periods. Of course they have working hours and limits to reduces the radiation on their bodies.
The point is, the source of physical hazard depends on the type of this hazard. In many cases the only thing we can do is to set control and measures to reduce this hazard. As I will share with you later in this article.
what is physical hazard example?
We can classify physical hazards at workplace as occupational or environmental hazards. And main examples include :
- confined spaces
- heat and cold (Temperature exposure), and more.
Let’s discuss each one in detail.
And mostly accidents like a crush, cut, burn, stab, etc. are caused due to this.
To minimize hazards, we suggest using proper safety tools like personal protective equipment (PPE).
And also check the machines for the auto-lock and auto-stop facility in case of emergency.
Electricity is another source of fatality if we don’t deal with it properly.
Non insulated electric wires can cause electric shock, and sometimes overloading can cause burns, fire, and even explosion at the workplace.
To overcome this electrical hazard proper safety tools like insulated gloves, shoes, and circuit breakers must be used.
Proper training of employees and workers is necessary to ensure a safe work environment.
For more information about electrical safety read my articles:
Fire is another big source of physical hazards at workplace. And every workplace has the risk of fire.
Workers, as well as employees, are equally prone to fire. The most common fire sources at work are kitchens and electrical short circuits.
To control fire it is important to install smoke detectors, fire extinguishers in the workplace where there is a risk of oil or gas leakage.
A safety plane, Proper training, and emergency exit have an important role in fire protection.
Read also our articles my articles:
First, What is a confined space? It is a place with limited entry and egress. These types of spaces are not suitable for human inhabitants.
The example of confined space is storage tanks, tunnels, Mines, etc. these places have limited number or less oxygen level.
And the chances of explosion and other physical hazards at workplace are much more. Other accidents types include flooding, collapsing.
Take into account that some workers may have a phobia of closed places. In this case, Never Ever Force such person to work inside a confined place.
Extreme temperatures are another source of physical hazard at workplace. Extreme temperature includes both the highest and lowest level of temperatures.
- If the temperature level is very low at the workplace. It can trench foot, cause hypothermia, reduced dexterity, and mental alertness.
- While if the temperature level is too high at the workplace. It will cause dehydration, dizziness. and heatstroke in workers.
Both extremes are fatal and proper safety equipment must be used to overcome the situation.
If the workplace has flammable material, the extreme temperature increase may cause fire or explosions.
Another physical hazard at workplace are heights
Working at heights is another shape of physical hazards, It is a high-risk activity and it can cause fatality or serious injuries.
Using falling personal protective equipment is essential end a key factor in protection against fall hazard.
For more information read our detailed articles: What is harness? and how to use it?
Working at heights is not belong to one working department. i.e all departments may involve in a job one day that requires working at heights.
In my workplace, many tasks require my team, electricians and electrical engineers, to work at heights facing this physical hazard. We use a bucket truck and safety harness for such tasks.
To prevent this hazard, all working at height PPE should be provided for all involved departments. Also, make sure all workers are able to use these PPE, and the most important you should ask if some one has a heights phobia.
Noise at workplace
Noise can lead to permanent or temporary hearing loss.
If you need to raise your voice to be heard then noise is excessive. If you are working in noisy places wear your ear PPE i.e ear plugs & hearing muffs.
Example of noisy workplaces are :
- Electrical power generation plants.
- Water pumps plants.
- Factories which has loud machines.
- Construction sites where are many heavy trucks and cranes.
- Digging machines.
how to prevent physical hazard?
TO prevent physical hazard at work place follow the following safety tips:
- The firs step to prevent physical hazard at a workplace is to identify all physical hazards surrounding your team while working. You can’t prevent what you don’t know about! can you?
- A good PPE program should be the second step. You should provide all suitable PPE for all tasks and workers.
- Make sure all workers are a ware of these hazards around them. Not only the hazard relating his task. When all workers are aware of all physical hazards at the workplace, they should help each other to prevent and avoid the hazard.
- All employees should stik to the PPE program. Wear all PPE equipment they require for a task, and make sure they use the PPE equipment the right way.
- If possible, prevent the source of the hazard. Make sure to decrease the noise levels, control the temperature of the machines and check electrical cables insulation etc.
- A good training program, specially for new employees, should help very well and reduce the physical hazard at the workplace.
- Make sure to make social activities at the workplace, if possible, like having lunch together, from time to time. This is a good idea that can reduce stress and negative energy.
- Leaders should listen to the team members, talk to them and understand any possible stress they are facing.
- If a worker needs a vacation, if its OK, just send him into a vacation. If not possible, for any reason, never refuse without explaining to him why this is not the right time for a vacation, besides give him a time for getting a vacation.
Never Ever Refuse An Employee’s Vacation Without a Good Reason.
In my country, we heard about an employee who came up to the roof of the workplace building, and he committed suicide just because his boss put him under stress and refused to send him into a vacation.