A Business Owners Guide to Common Workplace Hazards

Workplace hazards vary greatly based on the type of business you own and the various environments that your employees work in. However, there are a number of common workplace hazards that apply to nearly all types of businesses which can easily be avoided if understood and managed. By handling these common workplace hazards in a timely manner you can not only save your employees from potential physical danger but also free yourself from any legal repercussions.

Physical hazards
Physical hazards can occur from machinery, moveable objects and from the style in which work is performed. There are various types of physical hazards including noise, light, and even from machinery vibrations. The most common of these are:
Falls and impacts: Stairways, chairs, and in more extreme cases unmarked windows and open elevator shafts are common cause of falls in the average workplace. Impacts can occur from vehicles, objects falling from unsafe shelves and other items which are stored or moving in an unsafe manner. To avoid such injuries from happening to your team make sure that all infrastructure items such as stairways, windows, loose wires and other potential fall causing hazards are properly secured and marked. To avoid an impact injury make sure all items which are moved in the workplace are done in well lit areas. Extra care should be taken with shelves and rooms where objects are stored so that they do not easily topple over.  

  •  Electrical Injuries: Electrical harm is one of the top 10 injuries which occur in the average work place. These usually occur from some form of open wire which the employee comes into contact with. Preventing electrical injuries is as simple as not overloading circuits, keeping all electric outlets in good shape, using extension wires only as directed and not to plug in many devices into one wire. Electric issues can also lead to workplace fires thus making it extremely important to maintain circuit boards and internal wires in a proper manner.
  •  Manual lifting: Again one of the most basic injuries occurring in the workplace, manual lifting can not only cause pain but even permanent physical damage. Injuries of this type do not only occur in people who regularly carry heavy loads, but can also occur in day to day tasks. It is important to train your employees on lifting with their knees instead of their backs and to ensure regular breaks if they do heavy lifting on a regular basis.
  •  Muscular Injuries including sprains, back and neck, and repeated stress injuries. These injuries are so common that they are often not even reported. The majority of muscular injuries can be avoided by regular exercise and breaks. In a many Eastern factories, workers are required to perform morning exercises as part of their daily routine. You can provide guidelines on bulletin boards and email on how to do simple exercises while on the job.

WorkSafe: Guide for employers and workers.
Workplace Safety Tips: A website dedicated to workplace safety.
The First Step: (.pdf file) Managing safety and health hazards in the workplace.
Construction Solutions: Work hazards and options for making work safer.
Workplace Health and Safety: Helping to eliminate occupational injuries.
Keeping the Workplace Safe and Your Employees Healthy: Multiple resources for improving your office environment.

Stress Hazards
Overwork: Though it may not seem like a serious hazard, an employee who is overworked can reach burnout making things impossible for themselves and their job. It is not uncommon for employees not to take vacations for years on end. To avoid overworking the team, try to enforce good office hours and make sure that people go home on time. Also, make sure that everyone takes at least one annual vacation for a consecutive period of two weeks. This will bring them back to work with a fresh mind and far more effective than they were before.
Bullying and Violence: It may seem like these two dangers belong in the playground and not the office but both bullying and violence cause stress hazards. Regularly being bullied by someone in the workplace makes it more difficult to go to work in the mornings. This can be prevented by having an open door policy by the human resource department or even the CEO of the company to ensure that people feel comfortable talking about the problems. It is also imperative that all workplaces remain a ‘no weapons’ area to minimize the chances of violence becoming extremely dangerous.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment can and does occur for both genders. It can also occur by way of gestures and words instead of actions. Once again, an open door policy must be maintained to make sure that people feel completely safe when coming to their office.
Stress Relief Toys and Games: Taking a break from bullying in the office.
Tai Chi: Simple exercises to help you manage office politics.
Ways of Dealing with Office Stress: An article on dealing with stress in the office along with breathing techniques.
Stress Relief Strategies:  A printable guide for relieving stress.
How to Avoid Stress in the Office: Multiple tips and strategies for overcoming stress while at the office.
Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief: Relaxation exercises and tips.

Chemical Hazards
Fumes: Fumes in the office come from a number of causes including wood used for furniture, maintenance of air conditioning and heaters, and cleaning supplies. Inhaling fumes can cause both long and short term effects on your employees and should be avoided for both comfort and health purposes. Any maintenance and cleaning should be done at the end of the work week to allow as much time as possible for the fumes to clear. Employees should be informed so that they are aware of the possibility that fumes may linger when they come back to work. All forms of ventilation should be opened to clear out the fumes as soon as possible. 
Fire and Explosions: Fires and explosions can be hazardous regardless of their magnitude. They can occur form faulty wiring, gas leaks, and presence of unsecure explosive materials. To keep your workplace as safe as possible it is important to mark fire escape routes in places such as lunch rooms and bulletin boards. Fire extinguishers should be present in multiple locations and their expiry dates must regularly be checked. Fire drills should also be regularly carried out.

Chemical Safety in the Workplace: (.pdf file) A guide to dangerous or hazardous substances in the workplace.
Safety Posters: A collection of professional safety posters for the workplace.
Your Body at Work: Your health and safety at work, an online course.
11 Dangerous Chemicals in Your Home, Office, and Vehicle: Eleven of the most common hazardous ingredients to your health used in your daily environment.
Cleaning Up: Getting rid of dangerous chemicals in the workplace.
Chemicals in the Workplace: An online module for cleaning up your office area.

References
How to Identify Major Workplace hazards: A guide to using different techniques for identifying workplace hazards.
Workplace Safety: How to avoid risks associated with jobs involving manual handling of items.
Understanding Stress: Signs, symptoms, causes and effects of stress.
Workplace Safety Advice: The most common injuries and causes of accidents at work.
Understanding Hazards: Identifying hazards and how to avoid them.
Online Lesson for Recognizing Workplace Hazards: (.pdf file) A complete guide with lessons, forms and checklists.
Chemical Safety Training Modules: Online guides for how chemicals affect people and how to minimize risks.
Ergonomics: Information about posture, motion and ergonomics.
Office Ergonomics:  Equipment and resources for a safe office environment.