The Top Occupational Hygiene Risks in the Workplace

When it comes to ensuring a safe, clean working environment to your employees, it is important to consider ‘Occupational Hygiene Risks’, which essentially means small everyday risks that can affect your employee’s health long term. Different industries will naturally face different risks in the workplace, so some of the below pointers will be more prevalent in some industries than others, but as a general overview the top risks are as follows:

Ergonomics

This risk revolves around the way the workplace is set up for the way the body works, e.g. making sure computer screens are at eye level to avoid neck strain, ensuring chairs are set up correctly so that they are not causing back pain, the way your employees are trained to lift items etc. The construction industry places a particular emphasis on ergonomics as there is a lot of carrying and stretching involved every day, and there are usually hefty insurance policies in place to mitigate these risks. 

If you appoint an occupational hygienist to assess your workplace, they will take note of the daily movements your team make and create a risk assessment based on this, complete with advice for how to reduce potential issues.

Chemicals

This involves any chemicals your team may be exposed to in the workplace, such as fibres, gases, mists, fumes, dusts, liquids etc. Different materials come with different risks and as an employer, it is your responsibility to minimise the risk of health issues either through limiting exposure to these chemicals or supplying sufficient PPE. Occupational hygienists will assess how these chemicals can enter the body, as some can even be absorbed through the skin.

Biological Agents

This is essentially an analysis of any bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses that your employees may be exposed to, either as a result of the nature of work or industry, temperature or after an instance of flooding or bad weather conditions in the workplace. These agents have the potential to cause anything from mild skin irritations to even death in extreme circumstances. This is especially rife in the science industry where employees can be exposed to a variety of biological fluids or even animal/human DNA.

Physical Risks

These are any risks in the physical environment, such as noise – this is why you see those working in noisy environments, such as events staff at concerts and those working in construction, wearing protective sound equipment to avoid long-term hearing damage. The temperature of the workplace is also taken into account as those working in extreme heat conditions are at risk of dizziness, dehydration, heat exhaustion etc.

Psychological Effects

This covers how the workplace can affect your employee’s psychological wellbeing, e.g. stress, hostility, depression etc. Although physical dangers are important to evaluate, it is important to assess mental health risks too.

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