Workplace hazards can be filed into several categories, including threats that cause immediate injury as well as those that cause harm from long term physical stress or exposure to toxic chemicals. Many dangerous workplace conditions fall into the category of “environmental hazards”; under these conditions, workers are exposed to air quality issues, temperature extremes, and other circumstances that surround them during the working day and may cause serious illness or injury. Four of the most dangerous workplace environmental concerns are listed below—If any of these potentially impact your employees, take a closer look and find ways to avoid the threat or implement stronger protections.
Loud, sustained, or stressful sounds can harm employees in three distinct ways: First, a sudden sharp burst of sound can cause trauma to the tympanic membrane or the sensitive anatomy of the inner ear. A traumatic form of hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, and it may be resolved through quick and appropriate medical intervention. Second, long term hearing loss may be equally damaging, and tends to take place when employees are exposed to ambient noise that exceeds safe decibel levels. Sustained stressful sounds can lead to psychological harm as well. All three dangers can often be prevented with proper noise control and policies enforcing the use of protective gear.
Employees who work under very hot or humid conditions, especially those who are required to wear uniforms or protective gear that can exacerbate heat stress, must be monitored and protected from hyperthermia, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Fans and cooling systems can keep air in circulation and keep indoor temperatures down. Employees who work outdoors should be provided with adequate break periods and access to drinking water. Skin protection and shelter from the sun may also be necessary. Employers must take responsibility for providing these resources and enforcing their use.
Cold conditions can expose employees to hypothermia, skin damage, and poor judgement which may lead to injury. Like heat exposure, cold-related hazards can be kept at bay with proper indoor climate controls. But under outdoor conditions, employees must be presented with protective clothing, including hats and gloves. Use of protective gear should be monitored and enforced, and break periods should be mandatory.
Employees who work under low light conditions or outdoors during nighttime hours must be protected from the hazards and injuries that result from compromised vision. Proper traffic signaling and working signal lights on forklifts and shop floor vehicles are a must. But lights at workstations should also be sufficient to prevent employees from harming themselves or others while operating equipment or completing their assigned tasks.
For specific guidance and more information on protecting your employees from environmental threats in the workplace, contact the Ontario staffing team at Lift Temp.