As physiotherapists, we know how workplace hazards can negatively affect employees’ physical and mental health and productivity. Understanding and addressing common risks such as physical, chemical, biological, ergonomic, and psychosocial hazards is essential.

Understanding Workplace Hazards

  • Physical Hazards include risks from moving machinery, slippery floors, and other sources of potential injury.
  • Chemical Hazards: Exposure to harmful chemicals in solvents and cleaning agents.
  • Biological Hazards: Risks from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
  • Ergonomic Hazards: Poor workstation design leads to musculoskeletal issues.
  • Psychosocial Hazards: Stress, bullying, and other workplace pressures affecting mental health.

All these types of workplace hazards can occur depending on the work environment required for the particular industry. However, the following are common hazards that many workplaces have and ways in which to lessen their effect.

1. Poor Ergonomics: Poor ergonomics is among the most prevalent workplace hazards. Improper workstation setup, including poorly positioned computer monitors, chairs, and keyboards, can contribute to a host of musculoskeletal problems, including neck and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and repetitive strain injuries. Employers should prioritize ergonomics in the workplace by providing adjustable furniture and equipment that can be tailored to individual employees’ needs. Regular ergonomic assessments performed by a physiotherapist can assist in identifying and addressing potential issues before they escalate into injuries.

Have you been able to assess your workspace lately?

2. Prolonged Sitting: Sedentary behaviour, such as prolonged sitting, is another significant concern in many workplaces. Sitting for extended periods can lead to muscle stiffness, poor circulation, and an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is imperative to take regular breaks to stand, stretch, and move around throughout the day. Implementing sit-stand desks can also promote greater movement and reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

Prolonged sitting

3. Manual Handling: Jobs that involve manual labour or heavy lifting pose a risk of musculoskeletal injuries, particularly to the back, shoulders, and knees. Improper lifting techniques and inadequate training can exacerbate these risks. Comprehensive training on safe lifting techniques should ensure employees access appropriate lifting aids and equipment. Making use of mechanical lifting devices can aid in the reduction of strain on workers’ bodies and minimize the risk of injuries.

Manual Handling

4. Workplace Stress: Work-related stress is pervasive and can profoundly affect physical and mental health. High-stress levels can contribute to muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to illness. Fostering a supportive work environment that promotes open communication, work-life balance, and stress management strategies is important. Employees should be encouraged to take regular breaks, practice relaxation techniques, and seek support when needed.

Workplace Stress

5. Repetitive Strain Injuries: Repetitive strain injuries occur when repetitive motions or overuse of certain muscles damage and inflamed tissue. Common examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and bursitis. A business could implement job rotation and task variation to reduce the risk of overuse injuries and provide ergonomic training to educate employees on proper posture, movement patterns, and techniques for minimizing strain on vulnerable body parts.

Repetitive Strain Injuries

As experts in physiotherapy, we are committed to enhancing workplace health and safety. By identifying and addressing potential hazards, we can prevent injuries and improve productivity and satisfaction. A healthy workplace is indeed a happier and more productive one!