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8 Tips to Identify Workplace hazards

Walking through your worksite, it may seem full of familiar equipment, routines, and materials. But dangers could be hiding in plain sight. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported nearly 2.7 million nonfatal workplace illnesses and injuries just in 2021. Any injury signals an underlying risk that must be addressed. Don’t fall into thinking your workplace couldn’t possibly have hazards. Even low-risk environments have tripping, ergonomic, electrical, and chemical dangers. Begin proactively hunting for hazards using strategies that uncover what you might miss day to day. Break out of the status quo mindset by soliciting fresh perspectives from outside experts and your own staff. Apply these tips to find issues before they become incidents. 

  • Review Equipment and Chemical Safety Information

Whether it’s hydraulic lifts, laser cutters, or box crushers, make sure you understand the hazards of all equipment used in your facility by studying manuals and warning labels. Compile safety data sheets for all chemicals on site as well. These resources spell out known risks, precautions, proper use, and emergency procedures. Review them thoroughly rather than just filing them away. Then train staff on following all instructions to a T. If equipment manuals are missing, contact the manufacturer for replacement copies. 

Document any hazard warnings against toxic substances such as asbestos. Know exactly what inherent hazards exist, then counter them with strong policies, training, protective gear, and safe operating procedures. Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to such dangers. Be sure to consult resources like for guidance on identifying potential asbestos hazards and protecting workers.

  • Analyze Workplace Injury Trends

Looking back offers clues about moving forward safely. Digest past data to reveal risk patterns. Collect and cross-reference workers’ compensation reports, injury logs, insurance records, and incident investigation findings over the past few years. Analyze them to pinpoint what types of hazards are most prevalent in your workplace. For example, are slip and fall injuries common in wet work zones? Do many injuries involve a particular tool or piece of equipment? Look for correlations between certain jobs, activities, or areas and the incidents occurring there. 

  • Involve Employees in Hazard Detection

Your employees have the most experience with day-to-day frontline operations. Tap this insider perspective by engaging staff in multiple ways. Send out hazard reporting surveys to collect observations anonymously. Designate employee safety committees to discuss concerns and collaborate on solutions. Invite workers to participate in routine safety inspections and pre-planning changes to the worksite. Train forklift operators, machine technicians, and other specialists to identify risks within their roles. When employees help pinpoint dangers, they become invested in safety. Foster an open, blame-free culture for staff to voice concerns. Your workers are your partners in creating a hazard-free environment.

  • Perform Regular Safety Inspections and Audits

Even if everything seems to be running smoothly on the surface, dig deeper by conducting regularly scheduled safety inspections, audits, and observations. Use checklists tailored to your workplace to systematically examine equipment, storage areas, machinery, electronics, accessibility, sanitation, structural integrity – you name it. Document any concerns like frayed cords, uneven walking surfaces, missing safety guards, or blocked fire exits. Having trained in-house staff perform inspections brings fresh eyes, but external consultants offer objective insight too. Regularly scheduled reviews catch new hazards before incidents occur.

  • Investigate Incidents Thoroughly

When mishaps, close calls, or occupational illnesses happen, view them as springboards for preventing recurrences. For each incident, assemble key parties to dig into root causes using analysis methods like “5 Whys.” Ask probing questions to understand exactly how and why the incident occurred. Identify any environmental factors, protocol gaps, equipment flaws, or training needs. The goal is to learn how to prevent similar events in the future. Lead with care and concern for the affected worker, not blame. Include managers and employees on investigative teams. Detailed incident responses drive productive safety change.

  • Consult Outside Experts

While you aim to spot most dangers internally, outside consultants like occupational health specialists lend fresh perspectives you may lack. They offer full hazard identification services, from physical evaluations to compliance reviews. Third-party input identifies hazards that may hide in plain sight to an insider’s eyes. Consider enlisting industrial hygiene services, ergonomic assessments, workplace safety analysis, air quality testing, chemical exposure reviews, emergency preparedness consultants, and more. Experts dive deep into risks specific to your industry. Their findings give you an accurate baseline for where your hazards lurk and how to control them.

  • Stay Current on Safety Standards and Regulations

Don’t lose sight of the external guidance that applies to your workplace. Regularly review safety information from OSHA, EPA, DOT, and other agencies that oversee your industry. Sign up for email updates about standards changes and new safety programs. Follow news about enforcement actions and investigations in your sector. Stay on top of hazards highlighted in trade journals or emerging in similar workplaces. Comparing your internal findings against the latest external insights spots any gaps. Exceeding baseline regulations breeds a strong safety culture.

  • Encourage Hazard Reporting from All Staff

Every employee plays a role in identifying workplace hazards, not just leadership. Empower all staff to speak up when they notice concerning conditions. Maintain an open-door policy for people to voice issues freely, without backlash. Set up anonymous reporting channels like suggestion boxes or online forms so observations can be shared without fear. Train everyone on hazard indicators like frayed electrical cords, icy patches, clogged ventilation, missing guards, etc. Make reporting extremely easy, like an email or text away. When hazards are caught early, they can be fixed promptly. Thank contributors for speaking up, then follow through on resolving concerns. A culture welcoming input from all levels creates transparency and safety.


Do your due diligence in seeking out hazards rather than waiting for harm to occur. Be systematic in your search by applying tips like safety surveys, inspections, investigations, and employee involvement. Look at past incidents as warning signs for the future. While finding hazards takes effort upfront, that time is repaid infinitely when lives are saved. Workers who feel safe and valued do their best work in return. Make ongoing hazard identification an integral part of your safety program, not a one-time task. 

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