No matter the industry, there are workplace hazards that can kill or seriously injure employees. As a Safety and/or Training Manager, you do your best to train employees on hazard mitigation. You do what you can to make the work environment safe.
Work areas are designed with safe workflows to segregate workers on foot from moving plant and equipment. There are posters and signs everywhere to remind workers about workplace hazards that can result in fatal injuries. The safety hierarchy of controls have you working from the top to only rely on employees wearing PPE as a last resort.
But when all is said and done, there are still workplace hazards that are missed, and injuries and fatalities occur.
For this article, we discuss the eight most common workplace hazards that can kill or have the potential to result in a serious injury. We look at complacency and how to reinvigorate employee focus on workplace hazards. We also provide critical control measures for each of the eight hazards to guide safe work practice.
Complacency Has Set In
You’ve trained all new employees at your safety induction. It was likely to be comprehensive and many hours long. All the critical hazards have been covered, and you have emphasised their danger.
You’ve provided face-to-face training to ensure practical competence. You’ve gone down the path of e-learning to remind and educate employees on how to work safely. But you’re still having incidents and employees are still getting injured.
Or you’ve heard about or witnessed too many near-miss events. You’re concerned that the next near-miss will result in a workplace hazard that can kill an employee. What do you do?
Complacency has started to set in where workplace hazards have become wallpaper. You need to reinvigorate and wake up employees to focus on workplace hazards that can kill or seriously injure them.
There is now a need for dedicated hazard perception training. And, this training should be underpinned by the safety hierarchy of controls.
The training should focus on critical risks and control measures to protect employees. But remember, hazard perception training needs to be completed on a recurring basis to regularly refresh and remind.
See our course on understanding and applying the Hierarchy of Controls.
The Importance of Hazard Perception Training
Engaging training, influences work health and safety behaviour and improves hazard perception skills. The Tap into Safety Integrated eLearning Platform offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training that is delivered via smart devices and online. We focus on critical risk and the common workplace hazards that can kill within industry-specific scenarios. The Platform has a substantial library of pre-built training courses across a range of industry settings. If we don’t have what you need, we also build custom training content.
As a business, we are embracing the enhancements in technology. Our training isn’t numerous PowerPoint slides shown to a group of employees, followed by a paper questionnaire at the end. When we can we use real workplace photographic, 360-degree panoramic examples that workers relate to because it shows their work sites. We are using animation, gaming technology and microlearning to enhance training to engage employees and deliver training in 15 minutes or less.
The platform is far more than just a video library. We have a complete training platform that includes your safety induction, hundreds of courses that we’re adding to every week, customisation of the content, in-built assessments, certificates and in-depth analysis reporting that provides a comprehensive audit trail and shows you where to focus your future training efforts.
With our flexible per-use ‘credits’ model pricing, you simply pay for what you use. You can purchase any number of credits at any time, that you can use within 12 months before they expire. There are no subscription fees or lock-in contracts. And we also cater for larger users with our unlimited annual use plans that average out at AUD$30 per head to use what you need as often as you want.
What Are the Common Critical Workplace Hazards That Can Kill You?
By far the most common workplace incident that leads to fatalities is a vehicle collision. The key work health and safety statistics in Australia 2021 show that this hazard accounts for 41% of all fatalities.
However, there are 8 common workplace hazards that sit on most companies’ critical risk registers that lead to serious injuries and/or fatalities.
1. Working at Heights
Falls from height are workplace hazards that can kill or result in serious injuries. Working at height equipment should be regularly maintained and inspected before use. These include harnesses, lanyards and anchor points. If a person was to fall, anchor points must be capable of withstanding the force applied. Work platforms and scaffolds must have complete floors, handrails, edge protection, barricades and toe-boards. These prevent people, tools and materials falling to the levels below. Work platforms must have a safe means of access and egress and edge protection.
See our article on preventing fall from height risks.
2. Suspended Loads
Working around cranes and lifting equipment can expose workers to suspended load hazards and fatal injuries. People are never to work, walk or reach under a suspended load. All lifting equipment must have clearly visible the safe working load that can be safely carried. For all lifting activities, a lift plan should be in place. The lift plan should include information about the total weight and height of the item to be lifted. Information on the lifting equipment to be used (crane and rigging), and the proximity to hazards, e.g. energised power lines. Barricades or an exclusion zone needs to be established around the crane to cover the entire working area. The entry of unauthorised personnel into the drop zone must be prevented.
See our course on Mobile Crane hazards.
Coming into contact with electricity is more than likely to result in a fatality. Portable electrical equipment should be inspected before use to identify any defects. If it is found to be faulty, it should be isolated, tagged and placed out of use. A current test tag should be on the equipment. A licensed electrician should be the only person to carry out electrical work. When working in high-voltage areas, ARC rated electrical PPE should be worn that shows the voltage exposure rating.
See our course, Manual Handling and Overhead Electrical Work.
Unexpected movement of equipment and the release of stored energy hazards can lead to serious and fatal injuries. Personal isolation locks and tags should be applied to prevent unexpected movement of plant, equipment or releases of energy. Only the worker who has applied isolation tags or locks is permitted to remove them. It is also important that the tags and locks are removed immediately after the work has been completed.
5. Hazardous Materials
Exposure to hazardous materials such as chemicals and asbestos can lead to serious and long-term injury. All containers or plant being used for the storage and handling of hazardous materials must be suitable, and safe, for use with those materials. Any spills, leaks and any inadvertent release of material, need to be confined within the area where they occur. Immediate action must be taken to assess and control any risks arising from them. All work areas should be provided with adequate fire control measures. All hazardous waste materials, including empty hazardous materials containers, should be disposed of according to the SDS.
6. Physical Separation and Barricading
Separating people from moving machinery is one of the most common hazards for many workplaces. All moving machinery parts, where there is a risk of projectiles or entrapment, should have guarding installed. If guarding is to be temporarily removed or deactivated on plant, equipment or machinery, isolation procedures must be used. Plant and equipment should have emergency stops installed that are visible and located within easy reach. Signs and barricades should be in place to alert them of the dangers and restrict interaction with moving plant and machinery.
7. Fire and Emergencies
Fires and emergencies can cause multiple fatalities. An Emergency Plan should be prepared, that outlines what workers and others at the workplace should do in an emergency. An Emergency Plan should include emergency and evacuation procedures, how to notify emergency services, instructions on medical treatment and assistance, and the communication protocols between Safety Wardens and other personnel. Everyone should be trained on the types of emergencies and how to implement emergency procedures.
See our course on General Safety that covers many of the high-risk tasks we’ve discussed.
8. Confined Spaces
Confined spaces have hidden workplace hazards that can kill, where there can be low oxygen levels or gas present. Entry to a confined space should only be allowed after an authorised Confined Space Entry Certificate has been issued. Confined spaces should be clearly signed. When entering a confined space, you must have sign-in and sign-out procedures. Air and gas monitoring equipment must be in place. Choose an appropriate breathing apparatus. Provide adequate communication equipment. Develop a rescue plan with appropriate equipment. Always assign a sentry. The Sentry must be continuously positioned outside the confined space entry point while personnel are within the space. The Sentry should not be assigned any other duties.
See our article on recognising, recalling and reporting workplace hazards.
There are 8 common workplace hazards that can kill or have the potential to result in a serious injury. They include working at heights, suspended loads, electricity, isolating equipment, hazardous materials, physical separation and barricading, fire and emergencies, and confined spaces. Addressing these eight workplace hazards should be the staple diet of your safe work practices. To address complacency, and to keep them front of mind, you should invest in methods to regularly refresh the critical controls. This is where regular safety training that focuses on hazard perception skills plays a very important role.