Occupational hazards are dangers to human health and well being which are associated with specific occupations. While efforts are made to reduce hazards, these hazards remain present in the workplace by nature of the profession. For a telephone lineperson, for example, falls from height are an occupational hazard because members of telephone crews need to work at heights to do their work. Recognizing occupational hazards is the first step in working on risk reduction programs for the workplace to keep work as safe and healthy as possible.
Some jobs are, by their very nature, extremely hazardous. Jobs with numerous occupational hazards often provide better pay for their employees, in recognition of the danger, and they are also usually charged higher rates for insurance, because underwriters recognize that the chance of paying out on that insurance is much higher. For example, insuring professional firefighters is more expensive than providing basic disability insurance for a small office, because the assumption is that firefighting is dangerous.
Occupational hazards may lead to illness, injury, or death. They can include physical risks like falls and exposures to heavy machinery, along with psychological ones such as stress. Occupational hazards like exposure to chemical, biological, and radiological agents are also a concern. In people who work in jobs with at recognized occupational safety hazard, special training is often provided so that people are made aware of the hazard.
Given that these hazards cannot be eliminated, workplaces take steps to address them. For example, people who are exposed to radiation are expected to wear radiation badges to monitor their exposure so that if their exposure level becomes dangerous, they can be treated. Likewise, people who work at heights wear safety harnesses so that if they fall, they are less likely to be injured. Emergency response plans are also in place to handle workplace injuries and accidents quickly and efficiently.
People should make sure that they are familiar with all of the occupational hazards in their workplaces, and that they know how to address the hazard. This includes everything from learning proper typing posture to reduce injury at a desk job to checking safety equipment before entering a burning building with a fire crew. Employers who fail to provide adequate training and equipment for their staff can be penalized by government agencies which monitor health and safety, and employees who behave negligently around occupational hazards may find themselves out of a job.