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Do you know how to spot potential hazards and protect yourself in your work environment? What are the most common causes of work-related injuries? Training yourself to be more observant and developing a regular work area inspection procedure can significantly reduce the potential for workplace accidents.


Working together, you can ensure a safe, problem-free working environment for you and your fellow workers.

Successful hazard recognition depends on your ability to notice what is out of the ordinary in your work area.

identifying potential hazards
Identifying Potential Hazards

What is Out of the Ordinary?

The longer you work in the same surroundings, the more difficult it is to recognize potential hazards. Run through a mental or written checklist when you arrive at your work area to help you notice what is new or out of place. If you are relieving another worker, ask these questions:

identifying potential hazards1
Identifying Potential Hazards
  • Did anything change during their shift?
  • Was maintenance performed in the area?
  • Were materials placed in an unusual location?
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Identifying Potential Hazards

How you perform your work

When it comes to recognizing potential hazards, how you perform your work can also be important. Enlist the help of a co-worker or your supervisor to observe your body mechanics, or how you perform tasks. Always wear personal protective equipment provided to shield you from potential hazards, such as noise or objects being ejected from machinery.

inspecting your area
Inspecting Your Area

Ask yourself the following questions as you observe your work environment:

Is there anything new, different, out of place, or broken? Changes to equipment or the placement of objects in your work area are a frequent source of injuries. Are machine guards in place? Are raw materials and finished parts in their proper location? Have spills or leaks occurred in the work area?

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Inspecting Your Area

Is there an unusual sound or smell? Frequently, machinery makes different sounds if shielding, or covers are not in place, or if parts are loose. Fluid spills or electrical problems can be indicated by a smell.

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Inspecting Your Area

Follow these daily practices to ensure your safety:

Develop a checklist. An easy way to ensure that you don’t overlook anything in your daily inspection is to develop a checklist. But remember, if your work environment changes, your checklist must change, too.

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Inspecting Your Area

Be aware of your surroundings. Using a checklist is a good start, but don’t forget that things can change while you’re working. That’s why hazard recognition should also be practiced as you work.

sample checklist
Sample Checklist

Self-Inspection Checklist

The following is a list of items that should be considered before starting work. This is only a guide and may not include every item for your work area.

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Sample Checklist

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Are you wearing the required PPE?
  • Eye Protection
  • Hearing Protection
  • Other:______
  • Are you working with a hazardous material?
  • Has MSDS been checked for required PPE?
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Sample Checklist

General Work Environment

Do light sources work properly?

Pre-operation inspection of hoist, lift, or other machinery and equipment completed?


Are aisles and walkways clear of debris?

Are there any spills in aisles or walkways?

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Sample Checklist

Machine Guards

  • Are all machine guards in place?
  • Moving part guards
  • Shields
  • Machine controls

Fire Protection

Has the nearest fire extinguisher been inspected?

Is it fully charged?

common hazard causes
Common Hazard Causes

A significant number of non-fatal injuries suffered by workers are the result of contact with objects or equipment. Here are some things to look for:


Common Hazard Causes

Moving objects that create pinch points, shear points, or rotating parts. Moving parts such as gears, pulleys, belts, power transmission shafts, or cutting devices should be protected by guards or shields. Where access to moving parts is essential to the process, operational safeguards should be in place and used.

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Common Hazard Causes

Cutting operations where flying particles or objects may be ejected from the process. In many cutting or shearing operations, trimmed or cut materials or cutting fluids may be ejected from the process and present a projectile hazard. Keep shields and guards in place to prevent being hit by particles, objects, or fluids being ejected by the process.

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Common Hazard Causes

Sharp edges or projections in the work area.

Something as simple as the sharp edge of an electrical box can result in a serious cut. Always check newly installed equipment or modifications to existing equipment for sharp edges or protruding objects.

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Common Hazard Causes

Forklift and other plant vehicular traffic.

Be aware of blind corners or areas where the driver may not see you due to obstructions. Make sure the driver sees you.

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Common Hazard Causes

Robotics and other powered equipment.

You may be surprised when robotics, automated guide vehicles, or material handling system components move on demand by other processes. Be aware of the irregular motions of such equipment and make sure barriers and guards are in place. Hoists and cranes should undergo

pre-operational checks to ensure proper operation.

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Common Hazard Causes

Another major source of injuries in the workplace is overexertion. Knowing how to position your body properly as you do your job is the best way to prevent injuries.

Overexertion can lead to painful strains and sprains. Whenever possible, make use of tools that provide mechanical assistance. Be aware of your normal work movements to minimize reaching and twisting. Vary your body position when performing repetitive motion tasks.

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Common Hazard Causes

Improper lifting is another common source of injury. Keep loads small enough to handle without straining. Use carts, dollies, fork trucks and overhead cranes to move objects when possible. If you must manually lift an object, lift with your legs, not your back.

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Common Hazard Causes

Falls are a common cause of workplace injury. Falls generally occur when walk area conditions change due to:

  • Spilled fluids
  • Debris or process scrap
  • Tools and maintenance items
  • Parts or materials placed temporarily in aisles
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Common Hazard Causes

Be on the lookout for these conditions. If you spot a trip hazard pick it up immediately, if possible. If not, block off the area until the spill or items can be removed or picked up. If tools are part of a maintenance project and can’t be removed immediately, barricade the work area.

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Common Hazard Causes

Stairs and Elevated Areas

Make sure guardrails are secure on stairs, catwalks, or other elevated walkways. Ladders should be secure, sturdy, and within codes or regulations for the predicted load and angle of use.

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Common Hazard Causes

Know the proper procedures and wear proper safety equipment for the environment you work in.

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Common Hazard Causes

Working in an industrial setting can expose workers to a number of environmental hazards. These include:

Fluids and chemicals used by or in processes. If your job involves working with or around hazardous chemicals, make sure you know how to handle them properly. Containers must be leak-free and correctly stored.

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Common Hazard Causes

Lighting and Electrical Equipment

Area and task lighting must be working properly. Inspect electrical equipment, switches, and wiring for damage that might result in a shock or fire hazard.

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Common Hazard Causes


Noise damping enclosures should be closed. Signs marking noise hazards should be clearly visible. Hearing protection should be available and properly maintained.

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Common Hazard Causes

Work Surfaces

Keep work surfaces orderly and clear of debris. If movable, work surfaces should be adjusted for your comfort.

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Common Hazard Causes

Emergency Equipment

Any required safety equipment in your area, such as eye wash stations or safety showers, should be periodically tested. Know where fire extinguishers and, if applicable, respirators are located.

reporting potential or existing hazards
Reporting Potential or Existing Hazards

Whenever you spot a potential or existing hazard, it is your responsibility to report it to your supervisor or safety personnel immediately. Work-related injuries or illnesses must also be reported.


Reporting Potential or Existing Hazards

Your company is required to keep detailed records of all reported hazards, as well as illness and injuries. These records are used to identify areas or work procedures at your site that may need improvement, such as additional safety equipment or equipment redesign.


Summit Training Source, Inc.

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