All health and safety training programmes are geared to equip workers and managers with the tools to identify hazards at work. From exposed electrical wires to cracked stairway steps, our workplaces have loads of hazard control measures in place.

But what about the less obvious hazards? Everyday we are faced with the risk of illness and injury without even realising it.

Businesswoman having neck pain

Here are our top 5 workplace hazards you probably haven’t thought about before!

1. Germs, germs, everywhere

Some recent studies uncovered a shockingly disgusting truth about our offices – the average office desk has four hundred times more bacteria on it than a toilet seat.

Whilst you might sweep an antibacterial cloth across your desk once in a blue moon, there is no arguing with the fact that our offices are ridden with bacteria.

The most commonly touched items on our desks, the mouse and keyboard, are the worst bacteria-hoarders. When we navigate our way around the office, participating in meetings, making cups of tea, or taking trips to the toilet, everything we touch becomes covered in our desk bacteria.

Bouts of sickness are far more likely to occur when our places of work are riddled with harmful germs.

With these invisible germs haunting our workplaces, it’s crucial for workers to wash their hands regularly and to keep their desks squeaky clean to prevent illness from spreading.

2. Bend your knees and sit up straight!

Office workers and manual labourers are equally at risk of ergonomic injuries.

It might not be immediately obvious, but simply slouching in your seat for long periods, repeatedly clicking your computer mouse, or carrying out the same manoeuvre with machinery over and over again can cause severe injury.

These actions put our bodies in unnatural positions which causes real strain on our muscles. By failing to take precautions to prevent injury, we can develop conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Workers should be equipped with instructions for the proper operation of machinery, for sitting posture, and for lifting and carrying heavy and bulky items. There should be rules in place to ensure that they don’t engage in harmful repetitive tasks that could strain their muscles for too long.

3. Machine tremours

Similar to the hazards of the aforementioned repetitive strain injuries, machine vibrations pose a severe workplace hazard.

The abrupt jolts we experience when using items like pneumatic drills can lead to harm-arm vibration injuries. The joints, muscles, and nerves that line this area can all become permanently damaged.

Additionally, the less obvious vibrations experienced when driving machinery like forklifts can send vibrations throughout the entire body, leading to severe lower-back pain.

Standardised procedures should be put in place in workplaces where vibrating machinery is operated so that workers are not vulnerable to these strain injuries.

Worker wearing safety gear

4. It’s in the air

With dust particles and toxic chemicals potentially floating around the air in our places of work, we’re at risk of inhaling irritating and harmful bacteria into our lungs.

Asthma and cancer are amongst some of the many health problems that the hazard of poor quality air can lead to.

Workplaces should be filled with fresh, clean air to keep workers safe. The levels of humidity and the temperature should be kept at comfortable and controlled levels, and there should be measures in place to ensure that pollutants are siphoned out of the working area.

5. Yawning and stretching

These are tell-tale signs of a worker who should go home. Tiredness might merely feel like an inconvenience when you’re trying to get your work done, but it’s actually a real workplace hazard.

When a worker is feeling fatigued, they may be putting themselves and their co-workers at risk. Tasks that require a sharp eye and a steady hand should only be carried out by workers that are alert, otherwise injury might follow.

Sleepy workers should not be allowed to operate machinery or supervise others doing so.

Caution wet floor sign
photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr

Keep your eyes peeled

It’s very easy for workplace hazards to fall under the radar. Knowing what to look out for will make it much easier to identify issues afoot.

Whether you’re a business owner, manager, or employee, keep these workplace hazards in mind and make sure that they don’t go unnoticed.