Suffering from an injury or illness at work can cause more problems than just the injury. These types of injuries mean time off of work, reduced productivity and lost income and revenues. These are just a few reasons why it is important to take all necessary precautions to keep your workplace a safe environment. Explore our guide to Workplace Safety!
What is workplace safety?
According to the National Safety Council, workplace safety is defined as the method to prevent injury and/or illness to all employees and volunteers in the workplace. Ensuring safety and preventing injury and accidents is a proactive method every company should use.
Companies must organize and create safety programs and training among all employees. Most training can be conducted upon being hired, while other safety training must be completed on a regular basis. Most recertification processes for safety measures can be completed annually.
A workplace hazard can be a single item or a combination of different variables including chemicals, biological agents, physical factors, adverse ergonomic conditions, allergens and a network of safety risks. There are also psychological hazards which can lead to physical injuries and illnesses at the workplace.
The type of hazards depend greatly on the work environment. Some specific workplace hazards include:
- Slippery surfaces
- Sharp edges
- Dangerous machinery
- Working at heights
- Exposed electrical wires
- Continual exposure to hazardous chemicals
- Loud noises
- Extreme temperature conditions
- Body positions
- Gas exposure
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a hazard is something that can cause harm and a risk is the probability that a particular outcome will occur.
What are workplace safety topics?
The different topics you discuss with your employees will greatly depend upon your company and the type of work you do. For example you do not need to cover water safety if you work in an office and you would not need to cover welding safety if your company does not own a welder or do any type of welding.
Set up an organized training system to ensure your workplace is safe. All training and safety topics should keep your company within all national, state and local compliance guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control has a list of different types of workplace safety topics. Here are some of the more popular topics:
- Abrasive blasting
- Agriculture safety
- Workplace chemicals and chemical hazards
- Blood borne pathogens
- Equipment safety
- Motor vehicle operations
- Carbon monoxide dangers and causes
- Confined spaces
- Working at heights
- Food safety
- Electrical safety
- Natural disaster safety, such as earthquake, tornado, flooding and hurricane
- Eye safety
- Fall prevention
- Heat related illnesses and injury
- Fire safety
- Noise and hearing loss prevention
Workplace safety awareness
Workplace safety awareness is the first step to help maintain an injury free work zone. Make sure all employees are aware of safety issues, concerns and how to resolve any potential risks. Here are some tips to help spread safety awareness in the workplace:
- Develop a safety team and hold monthly meetings
- Hang safety related posters in common areas
- Select safety leaders to regularly check equipment
- Lead by example, including showing you are taking all necessary safety precautions at work
- Offer rewards for maintaining an ongoing accident-free workplace
Other ways to promote safety at the workplace include posting articles, slogans and quotes in all common areas, including locker rooms, break rooms and bathrooms.
Workplace safety tips
The best method for handling a workplace injury or illness it to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. Here are some tips from the CDC to help prevent any injures or illnesses while on the job:
- Safety should be everyone’s number one priority
- Always follow correct procedures and never take any shortcuts
- Clean up after yourself, especially when you spill something
- Keep a clean and organized workspace
- Keep all emergency exits clear
- Be alert at work and know your surroundings at all times
- Check with a supervisor when in doubt
- Never take risks, especially when safety is involved
- Obey all signs, stickers and tags
- Take regular short breaks to stay motivated and refreshed at all times
- Report incidents immediately to a supervisor
- Safety is a team effort, so help educate all of your coworkers
- Keep lines of communication open with coworkers and supervisors
- Immediately notify others of any safety regulation updates and changes to procedures
- Notify supervisors of any potentially dangerous situations, conditions and behaviors
- Dress appropriately for your job, including wearing the appropriate shoes for the job
- Always wear protective equipment
- Use both hands when lifting and bend your knees to pick objects up off the ground
- Learn to lift properly
- Never reach for something that is out of your natural reach
- Learn to use machinery properly
- Get help if you feel you cannot do something on your own
Safety equipment is designed to help keep employees safe while working. These items should be worn whenever working with hazardous materials or in potentially dangerous situations. Here is a slit of suggested safety equipment to have at work:
- Eye protection and eye wash station
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Back brace
- Hard hat
- Safety harness
- Breathing mask
Personal safety in the workplace
In addition to workplace hazards, there are also some situations which can put your personal safety in danger. Protect yourself by taking a defensive approach to know how you handle yourself while at work. Here are some tips regarding personal safety at the workplace:
- Do not leave personal belongings with personal information such as a driver‘s license and credit cards unsecured when you walk away from your desk
- Check the identity of strangers in your office and make sure everyone belongs there
- Do not stay alone late at night or be the only one leaving at night when it is dark
- Report any broken lights or dark hallways, consider the use of floor safety tape
- Recognize signs of potential violence and report it immediately
- Know the company’s emergency plan
- Keep an emergency kit of your own, especially if the company does not supply one
- Learn how to properly lift items
- Wear safety equipment that properly fits
- Take short breaks to stretch your muscles
- Eat healthy and stay active
- Get enough sleep at night
- Do what you can to keep stress levels down
- Take advantages of health and safety resources at your workplace
Importance of safety checklists
Checklists ensure machinery is working properly and that all safety precautions have been taken. It is important to use checklists before and after using certain types of machinery. Safety checklist inspections should be completed by employees, supervisors, safety coordinators and safety committees. By using the checklists and thoroughly inspecting the workplace, there is less of a chance a workplace incident will occur.
Checklists can be used under certain circumstances (only when using the equipment), daily, weekly or monthly. How often the checklists are used, will be determined by the type of work environment and equipment.
Workplace safety laws
President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law on December 29th, 1970. This was the beginning of new laws and agencies that would help enforce workplace safety. The three agencies that were created by this law include the OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. All three regulate safety training and awareness within the workplace.
According to the OSHA more than 4,500 workers were killed on the job in 2012. What is known as the fatal four, contributes to a majority of those deaths. These four include falls (34.6 percent), struck by an object (9.8 percent), electrocutions (8.1 percent) and caught in or between (1.6 percent).
According to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, more than 5.5 million workers are injured or become ill due to workplace hazards in the United States. These injuries and illnesses account for more than 1 million days away from work.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health also reported that more than 600 people are killed annually due to acts of workplace violence.
Staying focused and aware of your workplace surroundings is the best method to identify potentially hazardous work conditions. Make sure to report any issues immediately to a supervisor and take all necessary safety measure to help prevent a workplace injury or illness. An accident-free workplace is a more productive work environment.