How to Identify Physical & Mechanical Hazards

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  • 0:01 Workplace Hazards
  • 1:02 Physical Hazards
  • 4:08 Mechanical Hazards
  • 6:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

We are going to learn how to identify potential physical and mechanical hazards that exist in the healthcare setting. This lesson presents examples of possible hazards and explains why they may be hazardous.

Workplace Hazards

Take a quick glance at your surroundings right now. Go ahead, I'll wait. How safe are you at this moment? Depending on where you are and what is around you, you may feel very safe or you may not feel so safe. If there are any hazards or anything that poses a threat to a person or property, you may not be feeling so safe.

Now how often do you assess your surroundings for potential hazards? Do you assess potential hazards when you are at work or do you automatically assume you are safe? When you are working as a nurse, identifying potential hazards while at work can be the difference between going home safely each night and being injured and ending up as a patient in the hospital where you work.

Identifying hazards in your work environment may be new to you, so you may need a little help. Jackson is a nurse and OSHA officer, and he is going to help us identify some of these hazards before they have the chance to cause harm.

Physical Hazards

Jackson immediately sees a physical hazard as soon as he walks in the hospital. A physical hazard is anything physical that may cause harm to the body. The quickly identified physical hazard that Jackson sees is the floor. Most hospital floors are slick and pose a fall risk. This risk is enhanced if the floor is wet for any reason. Hospital floors may be wet from being cleaned, spills, or having various bodily fluids from patients on it. For this reason, nurses wear shoes that are slip resistant.

Another physical hazard appears to Jackson as he continues walking down the first floor hallway. He sees the supply closets where boxes, equipment and materials are stacked from the floor to the ceiling. This is a hazard because the items that are stacked up higher could potentially fall on a worker's head either by itself or while the worker is trying to get items down for use.

It would be safer to keep items stacked only about waist or shoulder height. If things are stacked to the ceiling, then a stable ladder or step stool should be available to assist with getting items down. There should also be another person available to assist with keeping the ladder steady and getting the items down. These steps will help to decrease the likelihood of something falling on a person's head or the person losing their balance on the ladder while holding boxes or equipment.

The other physical hazard that this supply closet poses is potential injury from lifting the various supplies in the closet. Lifting heavy boxes and equipment can cause injury if they are not lifted using the correct body mechanics. Jackson has witnessed this hazard before when a fellow nurse injured her back by lifting heavy boxes to put them in the supply closet, so Jackson is very aware of this danger.

Jackson has just been interrupted from identifying hazards because a co-worker has just requested that he help her with moving a few patients. Moving patients is another physical hazard that comes along with being a nurse. You will more than likely have patients that are either immobile or need assistance with moving. The hazard here is mainly to your back. You can strain the muscles in your back and injure yourself if you do not use the proper body mechanics when moving patients.

Now that Jackson is finished helping the other nurse avoid a hazard that she was faced with, he is back on his task of identifying other hazards in his work environment. He is coming onto the hallway with a lot of different medical and microbiology labs. There are many chemicals used for chemotherapy treatments and other chemicals used for running lab tests. Most of these chemicals are hazardous to him if he comes in contact with them without the proper protective equipment.

As Jackson surveys the lab from the doorway, he notices that all of the lab workers have on goggles, gowns, gloves, and face masks in order to decrease exposure to the chemicals. This is a great way to handle this particular physical hazard. The lab workers must work with the chemicals so avoiding them is not a possibility. The only thing they can do is protect themselves from the chemical hazard.

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