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5 Common Workplace Hazards - And 5 Courses to Teach Your Workers How to Prevent Them

By Karoly Ban Matei
Published: November 21, 2019
Key Takeaways

Making training for basic hazards part of your general orientation can help new employees work safely.

Caption: Working at height on construction site Source: Yauhen Akulich / iStock

Organizational learning and development is a big and important topic for any company. Employees who are given appropriate knowledge, skills, and the abilities needed to perform their jobs are safer, more productive, and engaged with their work.

Dealing with hazards and emergencies requires split-second decision-making. Training is one of the best methods for developing programmed knowledge so workers can react quickly and automatically.

New and young workers are most at risk of injury, and that's because they're still learning how to do the job. Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge is partly due to the fact that some employees don't receive the right training for the work they're expected to do.


Here are five of the most common workplace hazards, along with the training courses that can reduce their risks.

Lack of Knowledge

Lack of knowledge is probably the largest and most all-encompassing hazard. As such, my first and most important recommendation is to provide employees courses that are packed with general safety information.

OSHA’s 10- and 30-hour construction safety certifications are good examples of this. Not only do they cover all OSHA regulations and standards in 29 CFR 1926, but they are delivered online and allow employees to work through them at their own pace. This is a key feature for generations X, Y, and Z - already the bulk of the workforce and continuing to grow.

E-learning allows workers to “fail safely,” without being seen and judged by their peers. It also trainees to go through the material as many times as they need to, until they've mastered it.

Both courses cover similar material, but OSHA 10 is geared mostly to field employees while OSHA 30 goes more in-depth and is geared toward safety supevisors and managers.

These courses could easily be prerequisites for any new employee or supervisor.


The National Safety Council's 2017 Workplace Fatalities By the Numbers infographic identifies transportation as the leading cause of workplace fatalities, attributing 40% of all work-related deaths to it. Drivers account for over 40% of the total, followed by farmers, ground maintenance crews, roofers, aircraft pilots.

Many of us use vehicles at work, either as drivers or passengers, so this is a topic that could be part of general orientation. For most employees, the Driver Safety Course for Cars, Vans & Small Trucks course will be sufficient. However, employees driving larger vehicles or transporting hazardous substances will need to take supplementary training.

(Learn about Managing Pedestrians at Work.)


Heavy Equipment

According to NIOSH, heavy equipment hazards seem to be responsible, in one way or another, in up to 50% of all industry fatalities. Most injuries and fatalities result from heavy equipment overturning, collisions, falling and flying debris, and becoming caught or struck by running equipment.

Employees who work in road, highway, and bridge construction are most at risk, accounting for 80% of heavy equipment related fatalities. Besides the hazard posed to human safety, heavy equipment has the potential to damage above-ground and underground structures and facilities.

OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.178, Power Industrial Trucks standard requires that each employee has to be trained on the equipment they will use. The Excavator Operator Safety Course is one example, but there are a variety of training options suitable for different jobs.

(Learn more in Top 10 Safety Tips for Heavy Equipment Operators.)


Falls are one of the leading causes of death and injury in most industries. If we include non-work-related deaths, falling is the third cause of deaths related to unintentional injury in the U.S. Because of this, fall protection training can often include a "take safety home" element.

Many employers provide different types of training to educate their workers about fall protection. All employees should complete at least some general online training, such as Fall Protection Training (For Construction and General Industry), but employees using fall protection equipment should supplement that with third-party, hands-on training or on-the-job training under the supervision of a competent employee.

(Find out How to Do Fall Protection Training Right.)

Exposure to Hazardous Substances

Hazardous substances are another common workplace hazard. Our awareness of this hazard can be lowered by the fact that we deal with some of the chemicals in our domestic life (as cleaners, degreasers, and so on). We assume we already know all there is to know about these substances and how to handle them safely. However, the workplace is substantially more complex than the household, deals with larger quantities of chemicals, and often involves chemicals that are incompatible with each other.

A basic understanding of hazards classification, labels, and safety data sheets is required. GHS Hazardous Communication Training can be a good choice. As always, however, it should be supplemented with workplace-specific training to familiarize your employees with the hazards and controls for the substances, and combinations of substances, found in your workplace.


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Written by Karoly Ban Matei | HR and Safety Manager

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Karoly has worked at a senior level (both as an employee and a contractor) for organizations in the construction and manufacturing industries. He has a passion for developing and improving health and safety programs.

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