Any substance or physical agent with the potential to threaten the surrounding natural environments or the potential to adversely affect people’s health is known as an environmental hazard. The three different types of environmental hazards include:
- Chemical: Probably the most common kind of environmental hazards, chemical hazards are substances that can cause significant damage to the surrounding environment or aquatic life and must follow GHS regulations. Common chemical hazards include heavy metals, pesticides, carcinogens, fungicides, and more.
- Physical: Physical hazards encompasses a number of occupational hazards that negatively affect human health with or without contact. Examples include noise pollution, slip and trip hazards, fog, natural disasters, and more. Many times, workplaces don’t see these hazards as damage may occur over time.
- Biological: Finally, biological environmental hazards are biological substances that pose a threat to living organisms (specifically humans). Hospitals and other healthcare facilities often have to deal with biohazards like medical waste, molds, pathogens, etc.
In addition to the hazards listed above, two work-specific environmental hazards include:
- Ergonomic hazards: Those working in manual labor face common ergonomic hazards like standing in awkward positions, reaching for tools, or carrying and moving heavy loads. Heavy tools should be properly labeled and work cells should be designed to work easily and efficiently.
- Electrical hazards: Electric shocks, electric arcing, and arc flashes are some of the most dangerous occupational hazards. Workplaces dealing with high amounts of electricity will need to have a lockout/tagout program, the necessary PPE, and employees properly trained on dealing with electrical hazards.
Having a health and safety program who meets regularly can key to reducing and eliminating environmental hazards. The safety team should meet periodically throughout the year to address any safety issues and conduct risk assessments. OSHA, who requires employers to maintain a workplace free from known hazards, offers comprehensive resources for starting an effective program.