Workplace Health Hazards, Problems and Remedies

Most workplace health hazards aren’t obvious ones like unguarded equipment of slippery floors. Many are unseen hazards (like mold) that the company inadvertently produces as part of its production processes. Other problems like drug abuse, the employees may create for themselves. In either case, these health hazards are often as much or more dangerous to workers health and safety than are obvious hazards like slippery floors. The manager must therefore address them. Typical workplace exposure hazards may include:

1) Chemicals and other hazardous materials
2) Excessive noise and vibrations
3) Temperature extremes.
4) Biohazards including those that are normally occurring (such as mold) and man made (such as anthrax).
5) Ergonomics hazards (such as poorly designed equipment that forces worker to do their jobs while contorted in unnatural positions).
6) And, familiar safety related hazards such as slippery floors and blocked passageway.

OSHA standards list permissible exposure limits or about 600 chemicals. Table list some OSHA substance specific health standards.


OSHA substance specific health standards

Substance Permissible Exposure Limits

Asbestos .1001

Vinyl chloride .1071

Inorganic arsenic .1018

Lead .1025

Cadmium .1027

Hazardous substances like these require air sampling and other preventive and precautionary measures. They are also more widespread than most managers realize. For example, cadmium pigments provide color to many paints and coatings and ethyl alcohol is often used as a solvent in industrial processes.

The basic Industrial Hygiene Program:

Managing exposure to hazards like these comes under the category of industrial hygiene and involves recognition, evaluation, and control. First the facility’s health and safety officers (possibly working with teams of supervisors and employees) must recognize possible exposure hazards. This typically involves conducing plant / facility around surveys, employee interviews, records reviews and reviews of government and nongovernmental standards regarding various exposure hazards.

Having identified a possible hazard the evaluation phase involves determining how severe the hazards is. This requires measuring the exposure, comparing the measured exposure to some benchmark and determining whether the risk is within tolerances.

Finally, the hazard control phase involves eliminating or reducing the hazard. Note that personal protective gear such as face masks are generally the last option for dealing with such problems. Before relying on these, the employer must install engineering controls (such as process enclosures or ventilation) and administrative controls (including training and improved housekeeping) this is mandatory under OSHA.

Asbestos Exposure at work:

There are four major sources of occupational respiratory diseases asbestos, silica, lead and carbon dioxide. Of these asbestos has become a major concern, in part because of publicity surrounding asbestos in building such as schools constructed before the mid 1970s. Major efforts are still under way to rid these buildings of the substances.

OSHA standards require several actions with respect to asbestos. Companies must monitor the air whenever an employer expects the level of asbestos to rise to one half of the allowable limits. (You would therefore have to monitor if you expected asbestos levels of 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter) engineering controls – walls, special filters and so forth are required to maintain an asbestos level that complies with OSHA standards. Only then can employees use respirators if additional efforts are required to achieve compliance.

Improving Productivity through HRIS: Internet based safety improvement Solutions

In today’s business environment companies need to obtain efficiencies wherever they can, and Internet based systems can help them manage their safety programs much more efficiently. For example, any employees handling hazardous chemicals must be familiar with those chemical material safety data sheets (MSDS). These sheets from OSHA describe the precautions employees are to take when dealing with the chemicals and what to do if problems arise. In a dry cleaning store, for instance the cleaner spotter is supposed to be knowledgeable about the MSDS for chemicals like hydrofluorous acid (used for stain removal) and perchloroethylene (used for cleaning)

Particularly for large firms, managing the MSDS can cost millions of dollars annually, The employer needs to distribute the appropriate MSDS to each employee, ensure that the employees, study and learn their contents and continually update the data sheets based on new OSHA information. Many firms are therefore putting their MSDS programs online. The Web based systems provide a platform upon which the employer can mount all its relevant MSDS, make these available to the employees who need them, monitor and test employees on the sheets used and update the MSDS as required. Systems like these provide an inexpensive way to boost the productivity and effectiveness of one essential aspect of an employer’s safety and health program.