occupational hazard

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Occupational hazards are risks associated with working in specific occupations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) describes five categories of occupational hazards: physical safety hazards, chemical hazards, biological hazards, physical hazards, and ergonomic risk factors. Physical safety hazards include anything that could lead to injury in a workplace accident. This could be slipping hazards, the operation of machinery, electrical hazards, or any other potentially dangerous condition that could exist in a workplace.

The latter four hazards are described as OSHA as health hazards. Unlike physical safety hazards, they describe risks of injury after cumulative exposure to a harmful condition or substance rather than a singular accident. Chemical hazards include solvents, adhesives, paints, toxic dusts, among other potentially toxic fumes or acids. Biological hazards include infectious diseases, molds, toxic or poisonous plants, or animal materials. Physical hazards include excessive noise, elevated or low temperatures, or radiation. Ergonomic risk factors include repetitive actions, such as heavy lifting or the use of tools with significant vibration.

OSHA has a variety of laws and regulations that apply to different industries throughout the United States. States also have statutes relating to disability retirement after exposure to occupational hazards, such as this one from Hawaii.

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]