Workplace safety is paramount in ensuring the well-being of employees and the smooth operation of any business.

To create a safe working environment, employers must be familiar with key safety terms and concepts. Here are 50 essential workplace safety terms and their definitions that every employer should know.

1. Accident

An unexpected event that results in injury, illness, or property damage. Employers must investigate accidents to prevent recurrence.

2. Hazard

Any source of potential damage, harm, or adverse health effects on something or someone under certain conditions at work. Hazards can be physical, chemical, biological, ergonomic, or psychosocial.

3. Risk

The likelihood that a person may be harmed or suffer adverse health effects if exposed to a hazard. It involves the probability of the hazard causing harm and the severity of that harm.

4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Clothing or equipment worn by workers to protect against hazards. Examples include helmets, gloves, eye protection, and respirators.

5. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

A U.S. government agency responsible for enforcing workplace safety and health regulations to ensure safe and healthy working conditions.

6. Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

A written document required by OSHA that outlines the actions employees should take during an emergency, such as a fire, chemical spill, or natural disaster.

7. Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)

Procedures to ensure that machines are properly shut off and not started up again before maintenance or repair work is completed. This prevents accidental release of hazardous energy.

8. Ergonomics

The study of designing workplaces and job tasks to fit the physical capabilities of workers. Proper ergonomics can prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

9. Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

A document that provides information on the properties of a particular substance. It includes hazards, safe handling and storage procedures, and emergency measures.

10. Near Miss

An unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage but had the potential to do so. Reporting near misses can help identify and correct safety issues before they cause harm.

11. Confined Space

An area that is not designed for continuous occupancy, has limited or restricted means of entry or exit, and may contain hazards such as toxic gases or insufficient oxygen.

12. Fall Protection

Methods and equipment used to prevent falls from heights or mitigate the impact of falls. This includes guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems.

13. First Aid

Immediate care given to an injured or ill person before professional medical treatment is available. Employers should have trained first aid responders and readily accessible first aid kits.

14. Workplace Violence

Any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening behavior that occurs at work. Employers must have policies to prevent and address workplace violence.

15. Incident Investigation

The process of analyzing a workplace incident to determine the root causes and identify corrective actions to prevent recurrence.

16. Safety Culture

The shared attitudes, values, and practices that prioritize safety within an organization. A strong safety culture involves commitment from all levels of the organization.

17. Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)

A technique that focuses on job tasks to identify hazards before they occur. It involves breaking down a job into steps and analyzing each step for potential hazards.

18. Respiratory Protection

Equipment and procedures used to protect workers from inhaling harmful substances. This includes respirators, masks, and proper ventilation systems.

19. Machine Guarding

Safety features on machinery designed to protect workers from injury by providing a physical barrier between them and the machine’s moving parts.

20. Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

The modern version of MSDS, providing detailed information about chemicals, including their hazards, safe handling, and emergency control measures.

21. Bloodborne Pathogens

Infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires employers to protect workers from exposure.

22. Industrial Hygiene

The science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause workers’ injury or illness.

23. Safety Committee

A group of employees and management representatives who meet regularly to discuss safety issues, review incidents, and develop safety programs and policies.

24. Workplace Safety Training

Education provided to employees to help them understand and follow safety policies, procedures, and practices. Regular training is essential for maintaining a safe workplace.

25. Emergency Response Plan (ERP)

A plan detailing the immediate actions to be taken by employees in the event of an emergency. This includes evacuation procedures, communication strategies, and roles and responsibilities.

26. Fire Prevention Plan (FPP)

A plan that includes all necessary actions to prevent a fire from occurring. It includes procedures for controlling potential fire hazards and maintenance of fire protection equipment.

27. Hazard Communication (HazCom)

A set of processes and procedures to ensure that employees are aware of the hazardous chemicals they work with and how to protect themselves.

28. Incident Rate

A measure used by OSHA to evaluate the frequency of workplace injuries and illnesses. It is typically expressed as the number of incidents per 100 full-time workers per year.

29. Ladder Safety

Guidelines and practices for the proper use, maintenance, and storage of ladders to prevent accidents and injuries.

30. Noise Exposure

The amount of noise a worker is exposed to over a period of time. Excessive noise can cause hearing loss, so employers must implement measures to control noise levels.

31. Occupational Illness

Any chronic ailment that occurs as a result of work or occupational activity. It includes diseases caused by exposure to physical, chemical, or biological agents.

32. Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)

The maximum amount or concentration of a chemical that a worker can be exposed to under OSHA regulations.

33. Safety Audit

A systematic evaluation of workplace safety programs, policies, and procedures to ensure compliance with safety standards and identify areas for improvement.

34. Scaffold Safety

Standards and practices to ensure the safe construction, use, and dismantling of scaffolds to prevent falls and other injuries.

35. Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention

Strategies and practices to identify and eliminate hazards that can cause slips, trips, and falls, such as wet floors, uneven surfaces, and poor lighting.

36. Toxic Substances

Chemicals or compounds that can cause harm to health. Employers must ensure proper labeling, storage, and handling of toxic substances.

37. Universal Precautions

An approach to infection control that treats all human blood and certain body fluids as if they were infectious. This is critical in healthcare and laboratory environments.

38. Workplace Safety Inspections

Regular checks of the workplace to identify and correct potential safety hazards. These can be conducted by safety officers, managers, or external auditors.

39. Welding Safety

Practices and equipment to protect workers from the hazards associated with welding, including burns, eye damage, and inhalation of harmful fumes.

40. Safety Signs and Symbols

Visual aids that communicate important safety information and warnings. They help prevent accidents by providing clear instructions and warnings.

41. Health and Safety Representative (HSR)

An employee elected to represent workers on health and safety matters. The HSR helps identify and address safety concerns in the workplace.

42. Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP)

A written program that outlines procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment, and work practices to protect employees from the health hazards posed by chemicals used in the workplace.

43. Emergency Shower and Eyewash Station

Equipment designed to wash away hazardous substances that come into contact with the skin or eyes. They must be easily accessible and regularly maintained.

44. Hot Work Permit

A system to control activities that involve open flames or produce heat and sparks, such as welding or cutting. The permit ensures that all necessary safety precautions are taken.

45. Respirable Dust

Dust particles small enough to be inhaled into the lungs. Prolonged exposure to respirable dust can lead to respiratory illnesses.

46. Machine Safety Interlocks

Devices that prevent machinery from operating under unsafe conditions. They are designed to stop the machine if a guard is not in place or if another safety condition is not met.

47. Biohazard

Biological substances that pose a threat to human health, such as bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Proper handling and disposal procedures are essential to prevent infection.

48. Safety Incentive Programs

Programs designed to reward employees for maintaining a safe work environment. These programs can motivate employees to follow safety procedures and reduce accidents.

49. Occupational Health

The branch of healthcare and safety that deals with the physical and mental well-being of employees in the workplace. It includes the prevention and treatment of job-related injuries and illnesses.

50. Workplace Stress Management

Strategies and programs to help employees manage stress and maintain mental health. This includes promoting a healthy work-life balance, providing support resources, and fostering a positive work environment.

The final word

Understanding and implementing these terms can significantly enhance workplace safety, reduce the risk of accidents, and promote a culture of safety within your organization. Prioritizing safety not only protects employees but also improves productivity and morale.