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What are occupational hazards?

Occupational hazards refer to things that can make a worker sick or cause injury. These hazards often cause unsafe workplace conditions and the occupational health and safety act of every province or territory has rules in place that talk about how to prevent and educate workers about hazardous situations.

Hazards often represent the potential to cause harm. Whether that harm is realized depends on circumstances including the worker's level and duration of exposure to the hazardous material.

What are the types of occupational hazards?

Generally, the Government of Canada classifies hazards into seven categories:

  • Chemicals;
  • Ergonomic;
  • Health;
  • Physical;
  • Psychosocial;
  • Safety; and
  • Workplace hazards.

Chemicals have to be stored safely and securely otherwise they can be hazardous to the health of workers by causing disease or even injury. Examples of hazardous chemicals include pesticides, organic peroxides, oxidizing liquids and solids.

Ergonomic is a situation where the worker is matched to the job and the product to the users. Usually, it deals with such issues as lifting, pushing, pulling, slips, trips and falls and more.

The health classification looks at biological hazards and diseases, disorders, injuries and pandemics. Such hazards can include but are not limited to bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, birds, animals, humans, colds, venereal diseases, Lyme disease, and global pandemics.

The physical category considers issues that can threaten a person’s physical safety, such as temperature, indoor air quality, mold, noise and radiation.

The psychosocial category deals with the workplace environment and that how that affects the worker. This category looks at issues like stress, violence/sexual violence and bullying in the workplace.

The safety category looks at the various tools and machinery workers have to use that can create a risk to their health or safety. Such tools or machinery include cars, trucks, forklifts, platforms and electrical equipment, which can present a particular safety issue because of the threat of electrocution.

The most likely known workplace hazard is occupational hazards. This category often captures the safety or health hazards of the previous categories, such as indoor air quality, temperature, violence, and confined spaces.

Workplaces have the duty to make sure their workers are safe under the applicable act of the province or territory. They are therefore responsible for preventing risks and safeguarding workers if they have to use certain equipment or work around chemicals or other harmful substances or materials.

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

WHMIS is Canada’s national hazard communication standard. It has existed since 1988 and its main purpose is to give employers and workers information about hazardous materials used in the workplace.

It is regulated through federal, provincial and territorial legislation and dictates three ways in which information about hazardous materials are to be provided to workers and employers:

  • Labels on the containers of hazardous materials;
  • Material safety data sheets to supplement the label with detailed hazard and precautionary information; and
  • Worker education programs.

WHMIS was created to give working Canadians proper information about hazardous materials at the workplace.

If you have been injured or fallen sick at work, consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Hazards Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Workplace Hazards: FAQs Ministry of Labour Ontario

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System