Different Categories Of Hazards
The employer is responsible for identifying hazards. It’s useful to categorize them into five categories:
- The first three categories (materials, equipment, and the environment) represent hazardous conditions. Hazardous conditions are the surface causes directly account for only a small percentage of all workplace accidents.
- The fourth category (people) describes employee behaviors. Employee behaviors represent the surface causes that contribute to or cause a higher percentage of workplace accidents.
- The fifth category (system), identifies safety management systems weaknesses. They are the root causes that ultimately contribute to or cause most accidents.
Let’s review these five categories:
Materials: liquids, solids and gases that can be hazardous to employees.
- Liquid and solid chemicals (such as acids, bases, solvents, explosives, etc.) can produce harmful effects.
- Raw materials (solids like metal, wood, and plastic) used to manufacture products are usually bought in large quantities and can cause injuries or fatalities in many ways.
- Gases, like hydrogen sulfide and methane, may be extremely hazardous if leaked into the atmosphere.
Equipment: machinery and tools used to produce or process goods.
- Hazardous equipment that is improperly guarded and places workers in a danger zone around moving parts could cause injury or death.
- Lack-of a preventive and corrective maintenance will make it difficult to ensure equipment operates properly.
- Tools that are not in good working order, improperly repaired, or not used for their intended purpose is only an accident waiting to happen.
Environment: general area that employees are working in.
- Poor facility design, hazardous atmospheres, temperature and/or noise can cause stress.
- If areas in your workplace are too hot, cold, dusty, dirty, messy or wet, then measures should be taken to minimize the adverse conditions.
- Extreme noise that can damage hearing should not be present.
- Workstations may be designed improperly, contributing to an unsafe environment.
People: employees, managers, supervisors, in the workplace.
- Unsafe employee behaviors include taking short cuts or not using personal protective equipment.
- Employees who are working while fatigued, under of influences of drugs or alcohol, distracted for any reason, or in a hurry are “walking and working hazards.”
System: Ultimately, the root cause of most accidents is one or more weaknesses within the safety management system.
- Management may unintentionally promote unsafe behaviors. For example, they may ignore non-compliance.
- Inadequate or missing safety plans, programs, policies, processes, procedures, practices, and rules (written and unwritten) may somehow result in injury, illness, or death in the workplace.