Workplace Hazards

A hazard is a potential source of harm or adverse health effect on a person. Hazards could be physical, biological, chemical, mechanical and psychological. These hazards arise from components in the surrounding conditions in which an employee operates. When exposed to these hazards the effect can range from a mild injury, severe pain, absence from work and even loss of life. Hence, hazard control becomes paramount. Effective hazard control reduces and to a large extent eliminates the rate of injuries, illnesses and incidents associated to workplace as well as help to provide a safe working environment for workers.

According to OSHA safety and health fact sheet, every year, approximately 6,000 employees die from workplace injuries while another 50,000 die from illnesses caused by exposure to workplace hazards. In addition, 6 million workers suffer non-fatal workplace injuries at an annual cost to US businesses rating to $125 billion. Every employee deserves to get home safe every day. Employers are required by law to provide safe working conditions for workers and employees are expected to comply with the safety guidelines for their own health.

Examples of some hazards associated to the work environment and their effects:

Physical Hazards



  • Direct effect: burns, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat stress
  • Indirect effect: decreased efficiency, increased fatigue, increased accident rates

Cold: hypothermia, chilblain, frostbite, trench foot

Light Poor illumination

  • Acute effect: Eye strain, headache, eye pain, lacrimation, congestion around the cornea
  • Chronic effect: Nystagmus, loss of vision, poor vision, accidents

Excessive brightness

  • Discomfort, annoyance, visual fatigue, blurring of vision, cataract, arc eye and poor vision
Noise Non auditory effects

  • Temporary effect: reduced performance, lack of concentration, anger, irritation, changes in heartbeat pattern, muscle tension

Auditory effects

  • Hearing impairment, permanent hearing loss, acoustic trauma, tinnitus, temporary hearing loss
Vibration Effects of hand-arm vibration

  • Vibration induced white finger
  • Vibration caused Reynold phenomenon

Vibration of the whole body

  • Fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems, headache, shakiness, increased heart rate, increased oxygen uptake, increased respiratory rate, circulatory, bowel and muscular disorder.
Radiation Effects of Ionizing radiation

  • Genetic changes, malformation, cancer, leukemia, ulceration, sterilitis and death

Effects of Non- ionizing radiation

  • Body heating, ocular damage, numbness in the hand, nerve stimulation- altering biological responses.
Chemical Hazards



  • Anaemia, intestinal colic, encephalopathy, nervous and mental disorders
  • Nephrosis, mental disorders, chemical fine tremors of the fingers, tongue and lips.
Organic solvents
  • Contact dermatitis, irritant narcotic effects, headache, dizziness, confusion, neuropsychiatric symptoms.
  • Nasal cancer
Biological Hazards


  • Hookworm infection in farmers
  • Rabies in Veterinarians and wildlife keepers
  • Bovine TB and Anthrax in cattle rearers
  • Leptospirosis in sewerers
Psychosocial Hazards
  • Poor remuneration/ salary
  • Long working hours
  • Poor working relationships
Ergonomical Hazards
  • Generally musculoskeletal disorders ranging from mild sprain, pain around the joints, ligaments, back, arm and waist
  • Occupational overuse syndrome,
  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Cumulative trauma disorder


It is therefore instructive that employees are familiar with these possible workplace hazards and how to control and prevent occurrence. Organizations must make sure their working environment is safe for all stakeholders and guarantee safety at all times.


Article contributed by : Ighawo Judith, HR & Admin. Officer, +2349053895505,




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