Workplace Safety Awareness Tips
Unless you’ve ever personally witnessed a workplace accident, it can be easy for most of us to assume that these are incidents of the past. We might blindly assume that all workers today are safe and that no one is ever harmed on the job. But such an assumption would be wildly misguided. The sobering truth is that 5,147 workers were killed on the job in 2017. That’s 3.5 out of every 100,000 full-time workers nationwide and an average of 14 deaths a day.
In the year 2019, numbers like this are simply unacceptable. With the technology, knowledge and resources available to us today, we have the power to do so much better, and it’s up to every individual company to do so. Every business has the responsibility to take the initiative to examine their working conditions and determine how they can do better when it comes to protecting their employees. Especially in industrial settings, where heavy moving objects and pieces of machinery are at play, it’s critical that every company takes up the challenge of working a little harder to protect their workers.
Today, we want to help companies, managers and executives across the country do just this by delivering our top workplace safety tips. Choose only the tips that apply to you, work your way through the entire list ticking the items off one by one or use this list as a jumping off point to brainstorm your own ideas for keeping your employees safe and sound.
What Are the Major Hazards to Workers?
With data like this hanging over our heads, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand the importance of safety in the workplace. But the first step towards protecting your workers is understanding the major threats you’ll need to guard against. Luckily, the data is clear on this subject. The biggest groups of threats to workers’ safety are:
1. Safety Hazards
Safety hazards are among the most common threats to workplace security and include any unsafe working conditions that have the potential to cause illness, injury or death. A few practical examples of what this might look like include:
- Cords running across the floor that pose a tripping risk
- Ladders, roofs, scaffolding or any other raised platforms that might lead to falls from unsafe heights
- Electrical hazards such as improper or exposed wiring
- Unguarded moving machine parts that workers could accidentally touch
2. Biological Hazards
Biological hazards are those that expose workers to disease or harm through contact with other people, animals or unsafe plant materials. Nursing homes, schools, hospitals, laboratories and emergency response facilities are all workplaces that are at an elevated risk for these types of hazards. Some examples of these dangers in workplaces include:
- Blood, saliva and other bodily fluids
- Insect and animal bites
- Viruses and bacteria
- Bird and animal droppings
3. Physical Hazards
The physical hazard category refers to any environmental factors that don’t need to touch the body physically to cause grave harm and injury. Some examples of what this might look like include:
- Ear-damagingly loud noises
- Extreme temperatures
- Constant sunlight/UV light exposure
4. Ergonomic Hazards
These are a bit harder to spot than many of the other types of hazards we’ve discussed, which are the result of potentially damaging outside forces. Ergonomic hazards are the result of working conditions that strain your body. For example, a job that requires you to constantly bend over would present an ergonomic hazard. In the short-term, the only likely consequence is sore muscles. Over time, however, conditions like these can lead to serious problems and health conditions. Your job might be ergonomically dangerous if it includes:
- Frequent lifting
- Poorly adjusted chairs or workstations
- Repetitive movements
5. Chemical Hazards
Chemical hazards exist wherever workers are exposed to chemical compounds, whether solid, liquid or gas, with the potential to cause illness, injury or death. Some common ways that workers can be exposed to these chemical hazards are through:
- Liquid cleaning solutions, acids and paints
- Flammable materials like gasoline
- Welding fumes
Workplace Safety Tips Your Company Should Be Following
While industrial workplaces are almost certainly the most dangerous, this list of common hazards makes it clear that every occupation and setting has its dangers. No matter what business your company runs and what type of setting your workers operate in, it’s important to take all these types of risks into consideration when you plan for your safe environment. To help you build this safe workspace, here are some of our top tips.
1. Reduce Fire Hazards
Every workplace has its fire hazards. It’s the responsibility of individual workplaces to make sure these hazards are handled in a safe way that reduces the risk of a fire as much as possible. This means not only removing and properly handling flammable items but also preparing your workplace for maximum efficiency in case a fire ever does break out. A few of the best ways to accomplish these goals are as follows:
- If combustible materials are needed onsite, only store the amount required. Once these materials are no longer necessary, remove them from the premises.
- Store all easily flammable materials as far away from sources of combustion as possible.
- Ensure that hallways, stairwells and fire escapes are free from any obstructions in case a fire starts and workers need to evacuate.
- Maintain a clearance area of at least 18 inches around any sprinklers or fire extinguishers that you’ll use in case of a fire.
- Report dangers such as exposed wiring immediately after noticing them, and follow up to make sure the problem is addressed right away.
- Store combustible waste in secure metal containers and dispose of it at the end of the day, if not immediately.
2. Use and Teach Proper Lifting Techniques
The idea of proper lifting techniques ties in with the ergonomic hazards we mentioned earlier. Teaching these correct techniques helps lessen this risk. Of course, you can’t force your employees to lift properly. What you can do is provide plenty of training and explanation that gives your employees the information they need to understand the importance of appropriate technique when lifting heavy objects.
Proper lifting technique involves bending at the knees while keeping your back mostly straight as you crouch down to pick up the heavy object. Then, let your legs take the brunt of the weight as you rise into a standing position. The alternative that many people do without realizing it’s incorrect is to bend over at the waist, keeping the legs straight as they pick up the object and straighten again. This technique places incredible strain on the back, which is delicate under the best conditions. Correct technique re-directs this strain towards the thigh muscles, which are the largest muscle group in the body and the best equipped to handle it.
Make this information part of every employee’s mandatory training. Post signs and diagrams detailing this technique in strategic spots around your work area. Provide training sessions that practice this technique. Any way you can think of to provide this information is worth implementing, as it will go miles towards keeping your employees healthy and safe.
3. Keep Machine Areas Clear
The more cluttered any area is, the greater the risk of an accident. This is especially true in areas where workers are using heavy machinery. If a space is cluttered, this means people are moving awkwardly, which leads to ergonomic hazards. They’re also more likely to trip and fall over objects that are in their way. Finally, they’re more at risk of having a run-in with the machinery.
If the area around the machines is clear, people will be able to give them a wide berth, which keeps everyone involved safer. If the area is crowded, however, people will often be forced to get much closer to the potentially dangerous machinery than they otherwise would, increasing the probability of an accident occurring.
Avoid this possibility by keeping the work area clear. Return items that aren’t currently being used and make sure everything has a proper home. Even if items don’t have a place to return to, make sure they’re moved well out of the way and placed far out of the major lines of traffic. Another excellent idea is to create barriers and lines around machines that signify no clutter or unnecessary personnel may cross.
4. Prevent Cross-Contamination
Many biological or chemical hazards don’t become truly dangerous until they find their way into a setting they aren’t supposed to be in. As long as they stay within their confined areas, no one is in danger. The problem comes when these materials get onto clothing or the floor and are then tracked across the workplace.
Work-area mats are one ideal measure that can help guard against cross-contamination. Many hazardous materials will stick to these mats, instead of tracking across the floor on the bottom of someone’s shoes. Another smart measure to take is to use different tools when dealing with different materials. For example, the mop you use to clean up a chemical spill should not be the same mop you use to clean the bathroom floor. All this will accomplish is the transference these same chemicals into the bathroom. Instead, clean items like these thoroughly between uses and use different tools for different purposes.
Additionally, any employees working with hazardous substances should wear protective uniforms and certainly should not wear the same clothes to go home that they wore while working with the materials. These clothes will need to be adequately cleaned and decontaminated before they’ll be safe to wear again.
5. Reduce Slipping, Falling and Tripping Hazards
While tripping incidents are common, the good news is that they’re also easy to prevent. Ensure that the floors are free of any tripping hazards such as cords, mats that peel up at the corners or general clutter. This is especially true in hallways, stairwells and confined areas. Any spills should be mopped up immediately or reported and blocked off to prevent anyone from slipping in them.
If there are any areas that present tripping hazards that you can’t move, make sure to label them clearly. Place large signs and warning labels to alert people that the floor is not clear, and will be dangerous to walk through without paying close attention.
6. Use Personal Protective Equipment
Sometimes, working conditions simply are dangerous, and no amount of safety measures can remove every possible hazard. In cases like these, outfit your workers in the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes items like safety goggles, hardhats, hazmat suits and rubber boots. Equipment like this ensures that, even if an accident should occur, your workers will be as protected as humanly possible.
It’s also important to replace these items regularly, as they will wear out and become less effective over time. Keep up to date of when these items need to be replaced to ensure maximum efficiency.
7. Report Unsafe Conditions
Create an environment where people feel comfortable reporting unsafe conditions and concerns they may have. Let them know that you care about their safety and that you’ll immediately fix problems once they arrive. This way, when someone notices that wire in the corner that’s been sparking, you’ll hear about it right away. Contrast this with a situation where people feel unheard, and may not report this unsafe condition. You might not even hear about the problem until it’s too late.
The second half of this point is that while it’s up to your employees to report the conditions they see in the workplace, it’s your job to address them. If someone comes to you with a concern, it’s your responsibility to make sure that concern is addressed and the situation is fixed. This gives your workers the confidence they need to keep reporting to you, knowing that you’ll act on the information they provide. In this way, you’ll all work as a team to create the safest environment possible.
8. Create Rules and Think Long-Term
Sometimes, it’s critical to put things down in writing. It’s one thing to say that your machinery should be cleaned after every use. It’s another thing to put this in writing and create a cleaning schedule where you can see if the machine hasn’t been cleaned and inspected. Written rules help keep us all responsible and put checks in place that hold us to our goals.
These written rules are also an excellent way of taking a long view of things. Rather than simply addressing problems as they arrive, creating sets of rules and schedules allows us to think about the future — specifically, the future we want to create. These rules allow us to take control of the present, which in turn helps us create the future we envision for our workplaces — where every worker is a little safer.
Learn More About Workplace Safety and Other Industry Topics
In a world where workers are still injured and killed on the job regularly, it’s up to every company to do their part to make the workplace a little safer. Tips like these are a fantastic place to start, but they aren’t the only solutions out there. To learn more about safety in the workplace as well as plenty of other fascinating industry topics, don’t forget to subscribe to our blog here at Global Electronic Services.