5 Common Workplace Safety Hazards

what are the risks associated with your working environmentHR Services Scotland Ltd has put together a list of the most common safety hazards that you will find in the workplace. No matter how much you have in place, deaths and injuries can still occur. Wonder what are the risks associated with your working environment? Then this post is for you.

1 – Working at height

Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of occupational fatalities and major injuries. Cases commonly involve over-reaching, over-balancing or the failure of a fragile surface. Falls from height can also be due to unguarded holes in floors such as hatchways, inspection holes and pits.

Hierarchy of control measures

When planning any activities which may involve working at height, the following hierarchy of control measures should be considered:

  • Avoidance where possible, of working at height.
  • Working from an existing place of work, or using an existing means of access and egress.
  • Provision of suitable work equipment to prevent a fall occurring, e.g. edge protection.
  • Provision of work equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, e.g. fall arrest systems.
  • Instruction and training and/or other means.

Where possible, working at height should be avoided, usually by carrying out tasks from the ground. Some practical examples include using extendable tools to remove the need to climb a ladder. Where working at height cannot be avoided, Risk Assessments must be carried out prior to any work at height to ensure that the correct measures are in place to control the working at height hazards and also to ensure that the correct equipment is selected.

Related: how an employee’s lack of understanding and an employer’s lack of emphasises on the protection that is required when working at heights.

2 – Chemicals

COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’ and under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, employers need to either prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.

The majority of organisations today use substances that could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people. These hazardous substances can come in many different forms such as:

  • Chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dusts
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Gases
  • Biological agents

COSHH Training

COSHH training is required as it will allow employees to identify, measure and control the exposure to harmful substances, and as a result, will safeguard your employees. A COSHH training course should provide you with:

  • An understanding of how and which substances can harm health.
  • Knowledge and definitions of exposure limits.
  • Skills to understand exposure and to conduct COSHH risk assessments.
  • A greater understanding of practical control measures and safe systems of work.

Another potential hazard is transferring chemicals from one container to another. Even if employees feel comfortable around the chemicals and have worked with them for years, the containers must be labelled as required.

3 – Manual Handling

Employers must provide employees, visitors and contractors with a safe and healthy working environment. Employers must recognise the importance of implementing the Manual Handling Regulations 1992. A suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be carried out in accordance with the Regulations and training should be given where Manual Handling is cannot be avoided. All personnel are to:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling activities so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Assess any hazardous manual handling activities that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Provide or obtain information on the load to be handled.
  • When considering how to deal; with manual handling activities, we will ensure that the below factors are addressed:-
    • The task;
    • The load;
    • The working environment;
    • Individual capacity;
    • Other factors that may affect the activity; and
    • Make full and proper use of handling aids
  • Inform their supervisor of any physical or medical condition that might affect their ability to undertake manual handling operations in a safe and controlled manner.
  • Inform a supervisor immediately of any injury incurred through manual handling.

4 – Electricity at work

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, applies wherever electricity may be encountered. The Regulations are primarily concerned with the prevention of danger from electric shock, electric burns, electrical explosion or arcing, or from fire or explosion initiated by electrical energy.

Employers shall take appropriate measures to ensure that all electrical equipment in the workplace is safe and suitable for the purpose intended. All relevant persons should be made aware of the associated hazards whilst working with electricity.

Portable Appliance Testing

The term “portable” is not restricted to equipment which is normally moved around; it refers to all equipment which can be attached to an electrical system by a cable and plug.

In general, annual inspections of portable electrical equipment are recommended. However, more frequent inspections i.e. 3 monthly may be advisable if the equipment is being used in an environment where there is a high probability of damage, for example, in workshops and in site work, etc. Employers must appoint a competent person who will undertake the inspection and testing of all electrical equipment. An up-to-date register will be maintained where the inspection and testing of company portable equipment is carried out.

Visual inspections should be carried out by the user: Daily or before use of all hand held tools/equipment – including plugs, sockets and cables etc.

Wherever possible, persons using items of privately owned electrical equipment on company property should ensure that each item is inspected and tested for electrical safety.

5 – Fire Safety

Fires need three things to start – a source of ignition (heat), a source of fuel (something that burns) and oxygen (which is near impossible to eliminate):

  • Sources of ignition include heaters, lighting, naked flames, welding equipment, electrical equipment, smoker’s materials (cigarettes, matches etc.)
  • Sources of fuel include wood, paper, plastic, rubber or foam, loose packaging materials, waste rubbish and furniture etc.
  • Sources of oxygen include the air around us

What do I have to do for fire safety?

Employers (and/or building owners or occupiers) must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and keep it up to date. This shares the same approach as health and safety risk assessments and can be carried out either as part of an overall risk assessment or as a separate exercise.

Based on the findings of the assessment, employers need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.

To help prevent fire in the workplace, your risk assessment should identify what could cause a fire to start, i.e. sources of ignition (heat or sparks) and substances that burn, and the people who may be at risk.

Once you have identified the risks, you can take appropriate action to control them. Consider whether you can avoid them altogether or, if this is not possible, how you can reduce the risks and manage them. Below are some key points in managing fire safety:

  • Carry out a fire safety risk assessment.
  • Keep sources of ignition and flammable substances apart.
  • Avoid accidental fires, e.g. make sure heaters cannot be knocked over.
  • Ensure good housekeeping at all times, e.g. avoid a build-up of combustible materials
    Consider how to detect fires and how to warn people quickly if they start, e.g. installing smoke detection and fire alarm system etc.
  • Have the correct fire-fighting equipment for extinguishing a fire safely.
  • Keep fire exits and escape routes clearly marked and unobstructed at all times.
  • Ensure your workers receive appropriate training on procedures they need to follow, including fire drills, fire awareness and where appropriate, fire warden training.
  • Review and update your risk assessment regularly.

what are the risks associated with your working environment
If you require further assistance with any of the above then please do not hesitate to contact Graham Hyslop our Business Development Manager on 0800 069 8970 / 07702 130 639 or via email grahamhyslop@hrservicesscotland.co.uk. If you have a HR enquiry then please don’t hesitate to contact the HR Team on 0800 069 8970.

For more information about the services that we provide at HR Services Scotland Ltd, please get in touch with us by contacting the above phone number or via the links below.