Whether it’s an office or a building site, each workplace has its own unique risks. While employees should always be vigilant and careful, the responsibility for tackling these risks falls on employers and safety managers.
In 2019, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower published a Workplace Safety and Health Report, which showed a concerning increase in the number of injuries at work, emphasizing the necessity of imposing tighter precautions within the workplace.
The report identified slips, trips, and falls as the leading causes of most major injuries at work, accounting for 216 incidents, followed by machinery incidents at 82. Though these numbers dropped in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, accidents at work remain a serious risk to employees.
As part of its commitment to workplace safety, the Singapore government developed an Occupational Safety & Health framework, with the goal of making Singapore’s workplace safety record one of the best in the world by 2028.
To keep in line with this framework, employers and those with safety responsibilities should stay up to date with the most common workplace hazards to enable them to make informed decisions and mitigate safety risks at all times.
Each workplace has its own unique hazards and the types of hazards will vary. However, there are certain risks which can generally be found everywhere. Thankfully, these are mostly preventable with the right knowledge and careful planning.
If you are a safety manager, familiarizing yourself with these hazards is the first step to a more proactive mindset and a safer workplace.
10 Most Common Workplace Hazards
1. Falls from Work at Height and Falling Objects
Falls from heights are among the most common and serious workplace injuries. Those working in construction and maintenance on roofs and raised spaces are most at risk. Falling objects and tools are another serious risk in a similar vein, and both can cause serious, life-changing injuries.
Tips on how to prevent falling injuries:
- If possible, avoid work at height altogether.
- Ensure that ladders, scaffolding, and your site are secured from unauthorized access from vandals or members of the public. The correct work at height safety equipment should always be in place with competent staff trained in its use.
- Ensure equipment is regularly inspected and recertified.
- As with most tasks at work, ensure a thorough risk assessment is carried out and regularly updated, and you have an up to date working at height policy.
- Strictly enforce safety guidelines and make sure your staff is fully trained in working safely at heights.
2. Machinery Malfunction
The potential for injury from improper use of work equipment, as well as the ever-present possibility of machine malfunction, can be serious and even life-threatening.
Tips on how to prevent machinery malfunction injuries:
- Encourage workers to report signs of machine malfunction.
- Never encourage workers to use machines that have been reported as working incorrectly in an attempt to increase efficiency.
- Have your machinery repaired or replaced entirely when necessary.
- Implement systems for regularly checking the condition of your machinery. These checks can preempt malfunction accidents before they endanger your employees.
Shocks from live wires and malfunctioning equipment can happen with no warning and can easily be fatal. The urgency and danger of electrical hazards underlines the importance of taking the appropriate preventive measures.
Tips on how to prevent electrical injuries:
- Maintain electrical installations, replacing damaged cables and appliances immediately.
- Have electrical appliances inspected and recertified according to legislation and manufacturer instructions.
Poorly maintained electrical equipment can lead to fire, which can cause burns at varying degrees and even death. Fire is a hazard that can happen in almost any workplace so fire extinguishers should be accessible and regularly maintained at all times.
Tips on how to prevent fire injuries:
- Have fire extinguishers at various accessible locations. Fire-resistant workwear should be ready and flammable materials should be handled with care.
5. Confined Spaces
Working in enclosed spaces can be hot and uncomfortable and can lead to oxygen deprivation. Furthermore, working with materials that emit fumes can be fatal in spaces that don’t have the correct ventilation.
Tips on how to prevent injuries in confined spaces:
- As much as possible, restrict work in confined spaces.
- If doing so is unavoidable, employ strict safety precautions and allow access only to workers that are trained and equipped to manage the environment.
- It is always better to plan operations in such a way that they avoid the need for work in enclosed spaces, even if it requires making larger changes to the way you work.
This includes slips, trips, cuts, and other physical injuries from uneven surfaces and cluttered work environments. These are the most common work-related hazards, and usually the least dangerous. Nevertheless, the possibility for more serious injuries is ever-present and puts older and disabled members of your team at greater risk.
Tips on how to prevent physical injuries:
- Always ensure that the work environment is neat and orderly: no spills, loose cables, poor lighting etc.
- Encourage a working culture that encourages employees to stay organized and to pick up after themselves at all times. Keeping the office clean is not just a matter of cultivating a neat and professional atmosphere; it’s also necessary for keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Sprains, body fatigue, and wear can accumulate over time due to repetitive tasks and awkward postures. This can result in chronic conditions that require physical therapy to correct. They can also have a drastic adverse effect on employee morale, as those who suffer from these ailments will associate work with the pain.
Tips on how to prevent ergonomic injuries:
- Embed ergonomic principles within the core of your company, such as providing training and lessons on proper posture to avoid strains and body pains.
- Provide ergonomic tools like chairs, adjustable computer equipment, etc., and encourage their use.
- Invest in training your people on how to take better care of themselves physically.
Exposed and poorly managed industrial chemicals like cleaning products, solvents, carbon monoxide, gasoline and more can lead to skin irritation, burns, eye injuries, and blindness.
Tip on how to prevent chemical injuries:
- Ensure that only authorized and trained employees are working with these chemicals and with caution.
- If possible, store chemicals in areas where only authorized personnel wearing the proper PPE can access and use them.
- Properly dispose of chemicals that are no longer needed and ensure that equipment that can give off chemicals under certain conditions are maintained.
Biological risks can originate from agents that transmit illnesses to humans, such as insect bites, bodily fluids, bacteria, and viruses. This should be a major concern of safety managers currently due to the ongoing pandemic.
Tips on how to prevent biological injuries:
- Ensure that your employees are up to date with their immunizations.
- Clean and disinfect the environment and safely dispose of biological waste and other biohazards.
- In the context of the global COVID pandemic, this particular hazard has risen in importance. Further measures need to be taken to minimize the chances of getting infected or unknowingly infecting others.
Hearing damage or loss can occur from progressive and ongoing exposure to loud noises, such as from heavy machinery or other loud sounds.
Tip on how to prevent noise injuries:
- Hearing protection is the key to mitigating this risk in environments that are often loud, such as airports, amusement parks, construction sites, and industrial-level factories.
It is impossible to entirely remove all risk from the workplace. However, it is the responsibility of managers and employers to minimize these risks where possible. As well as the solutions above, there are many other ways to ensure workplace safety as best you can:
- Always conduct a safety audit for your entire operation, not just machinery and equipment. Periodic assessments will not only expose potential risk factors but also encourage a culture that puts safety first and foremost, where it belongs.
- Invest in the proper equipment. Low-quality equipment may be cheap in the short run but can be very expensive in the long term, both financially and in terms of human cost.
- Employ safety campaigns to address specific weak spots that you have identified. These can properly address safety issues in a way that involves the entire team, promoting a positive safety culture.
- Look inward as the safety manager. Remember the dos and don’ts that can make or break a safety campaign. Keep in mind that you are responsible for the safety of your entire team and you should be doing everything to guarantee it.
- Finally, you should choose a dependable safety equipment provider that is as passionate about keeping workers and leading safer and healthier lives.
With decades of experience in the safety industry, Kee Safety could be the ideal safety partner for you. Our safety experts can identify the gaps in your safety systems and frameworks, and provide solutions that are actionable and effective. We can also offer reliable, compliant safety equipment, tested exhaustively by our in-house engineers, to support you in creating an accident-free workplace. Get in touch with us today to learn more.