Safety and Specific Threats
When we talk about safety in the workplace, we're usually thinking about general hazards including fire, faulty machinery or unsafe building fabric. We ensure that our employees' air is breathable, their working posture won't cause strain, and they won't be injured by machinery or structural faults. These hazards are commonly categorised as physical, chemical and biological.
In some industries, these universal hazards are just the foundation for some even greater threats to human health and safety. If you work in a sector like printing, cleaning, or even baking, you're going to encounter chemicals that could damage your skin, eyes or lungs. Printers use inks and solvents that produce noxious vapours. These can make you drowsy or dizzy, and potentially affect your central nervous system. You might develop a skin condition like dermatitis, or get burns and eye damage from corrosive products. Cleaning products are similarly dangerous, and flour dust is known to cause asthma.
Hazardous substance regulations
Any job that brings an employee into contact with hazardous substances is regulated by the government under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes guidelines on workplace safety in industries where these substances are likely to be encountered, with examples for several sectors. You can also find guidance on how to carry out a COSHH assessment, which can be included in your regular risk assessment if the circumstances apply.
The dangers of breathing in compressed air are well known to divers, but the hazards can be external as well as internal. If you work in any environment that involves the use of compressed air, you need to take extra precautions to prevent damage from any accidental escape of that air. Lots of jobs require airlines, including car repairs, carpentry, metalworking, spray painting, lab work and many more.
You can lose your hearing if you're constantly subjected to high noise levels, or suffer injury from unsecured hoses whipping around. Using airlines without due care can cause ruptured eardrums and damage to internal organs. You can dislodge your eyeball or damage your intestines, and you should never use an airline to clean your clothing. Apart from direct physical injury, the debris and flying particles can result in cuts and scrapes, and injuries to the eyes and almost any body part.
Asbestos kills more people every year than road traffic accidents. The HSE states that some 5,000 people die annually from asbestos poisoning, which causes a variety of cancers in the lungs. You might still encounter asbestos in buildings built more than 20 years ago, and many more workers are still dying from long-term diseases that were caused by asbestos in the past. Workers in the building trade are typically at the greatest risk, but you can still find asbestos in sprayed or textured coatings, floor tiles, lagging and textiles.
If you are concerned about any specific threats to your workplace safety, contact WSS for a risk assessment to identify and assess the hazards.