Keep Employees Safe with an Industrial Hygiene Assessment for Physical Risks
Extreme temperatures are among the physical hazards that can put employees at risk in the workplace. Here’s how to mitigate physical hazards.
During the elevated temperatures that blanketed the Pacific Northwest this summer, workers in Portland walked out of a kitchen in a donut shop, unable to do their work in record-breaking, 112-degree heat. Even with air conditioners operating, employees recorded ambient temperature of 96 degrees in the shop, not accounting for temperatures around the fryers and ovens.
The employees at Voodoo Doughnut had asked management to close the shop early that day because of the heat, but the request was denied. Their exit led to a strike, a union dispute and last month, a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board reinstating workers who were fired after striking.
The brutal heat wave and the ensuing labor issues highlight the importance of maintaining physical safety in the workplace. When physical hazards go undetected and/or unmitigated, employee well-being is at risk, and legal risk can follow.
Physical Hazards can include temperature, noise, light, and even radiation, but no matter the source, employees’ physical safety must be protected.
What Are Physical Hazards?
The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies physical hazards as agents within an environment that can cause harm as a result of direct contact, including:
- Radiation: including ionizing, nonionizing (EMFs, microwaves, radio waves, etc.)
- High exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet rays
- Temperature extremes – hot and cold
- Constant loud noise
Among the most common physical risks in the workplace is long exposure to extreme temperatures, as well as noise levels. OSHA requires employers to implement a hearing conservation program when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels averaged over eight working hours.
Additional types of physical risks can include exposure to ultraviolet light, including sunlight, as well as proximity to radiation, lights, lasers, high or low-pressure environments, and more.
Employers can conduct a physical risk exposure assessment to understand their current levels of physical hazard, as well as create a plan to maintain optimal and safe levels of exposure.
The First Step: A Physical Risk Exposure Assessment
An evaluation is the first step in understanding your workplace safety in objective terms. A professional partner can perform a comprehensive evaluation to identify the type and levels of physical hazards that may leave employees at risk.
Assessing an environment for physical risks can include assessments of safety practices, environmental risks, types and levels of physical risks, and more. At Omega Environmental, our team of industry environmental specialists and certified industrial hygienists works closely with you to address concerns of physical risks, as well as chemical and biological risks, and provide recommendations and programs for mitigation and remediation.
Our team closely adheres to OSHA regulations and guidance to determine the safety of a workplace environment. Our top priority is ensuring the health and safety of your employees, building occupants, and others who may encounter potential physical risks.
When Should You Conduct a Physical Safety Assessment?
The decision to undergo a physical safety or other form of Industrial Hygiene assessment can not only help detect potential hazards and threats of exposure, but can also build employee morale and confidence.
Getting a professional assessment can help you objectively understand the type and severity of any risk that a physical agent may be posing, as well as to document the steps you have taken to create a safe workplace. If your industry or workplace includes exposure to heat, noise, cold, radiation, or other physically taxing agents, an assessment can help you determine the type and severity of the risk, as well as ways to prevent injury. There are a variety of good reasons to undertake a physical exposure assessment of your workplace, including:
- A workers’ compensation claim
- Employee reports of injury
- Introduction of a new physical agent or process
- New employees in the workplace
- To create a documented record of safety practices
Learn more about how we work with employers in a wide range of industries to ensure workplace health, safety and compliance, with reliable assessment and remediation backed by more than three decades of experience.