Of all the hazards in your workplace, physical hazards might the least obvious. Despite their name, physical hazards aren’t always something that you can see or touch. Physical hazards affect workers in extreme weather conditions or harmful working environments. Workers who are exposed outside in the sun for a prolonged period of time can suffer physical hazards which can cause long term effects to their health. Physical hazards are environmental factors that can harm an employee without necessarily touching them, including heights, noise, radiation and pressure.
Examples of physical hazards include:
Exposure to electrical live parts can result in serious injuries and fatalities, including electric shocks, burns, explosions and falls from height. The risk is increased in wet conditions, where a worker’s equipment and surroundings can also become live.
Every workplace is at risk of fire. However, some workplaces are at an increased risk – either due to the work activities or types or employees/residents. For example, organizations that carry out hot work, food manufacturers and restaurants. Fires can be devastating, both to the organization and to the people impacted, they can cause serious injuries, such as burns, asphyxiation and fatalities.
Working in confined spaces poses serious hazards to employees. They can be especially dangerous because of the reduced oxygen levels and potential build-up of gases, which can result in fires, explosions, asphyxiation and loss of consciousness. Further risks include collapse and flooding. Examples of people at risk include anyone working in mines, cold storage, tunnels, wells, ship holds, air ducts and manholes.
Exposure to freezing or extreme cold conditions can result in serious health impacts, including hypothermia, reduced mental alertness, chilblains, trench foot and reduced dexterity. Those at risk include anyone required to work outdoors in colder months, or in refrigerated warehouses, including construction workers, emergency response staff, fishermen, and food manufacturers. Conversely, exposure to extreme heat can result in health impacts such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and dizziness. Workers at risk include restaurant staff, launderers, smelters, welders and bakers.