Many workplaces have hazards that endanger workers, but many of these issues are avoidable with the proper training, safety gear and protocols. Here are the top workplace risks and what may be done to avoid them:
1. Keep areas free of clutter to prevent falls
Falls are one of the most common workplace injuries and resulted in 699 fatal injuries in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of injuries where the height of the fall was reported, one in four workers fell from a height of 10 feet or less, calling attention to the risks of falls from a short height. Even in cases with no fatalities, falling to a lower level may cause serious injuries.
Falls often occur in the workplace because of cluttered areas, slippery or uneven floor surfaces, floor holes, wall openings, unprotected edges and improperly positioned ladders. Although the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Association has regulations requiring specific fall protection measures for different industries, falls may still be common due to a lack of safety culture in an organization. To avoid falls, companies should ensure all working areas are free from clutter. In addition, shoe covers with rubberized grips give workers better traction.
2. Implement a culture of safety
Understanding the unique risks at your company or in your industry helps managers create effective training. Emphasize the importance of safety so employees take it to heart. Workplace safety should be an early area of focus when new workers start at the company. Conduct regular inspections to identify anything that could become a hazard.
3. Keep emergency exits and equipment shutoffs accessible
Reducing clutter has multiple safety benefits. Not only will it reduce falls, but it also makes emergency exits more accessible. Maintaining clear access to emergency equipment shutoffs allows machinery to be turned off quickly.
4. Reduce workplace stress
Stressed out employees are more likely to be injured on the job. Long hours tire workers, making them less aware of their surroundings. Encourage workers to talk to their supervisors if they feel high levels of stress. Allow time for regular breaks so employees have a chance to recharge.
5. Lift correctly
Picking up heavy items improperly causes back injuries and chronic pain. Workers who need to lift heavy items should use proper form to avoid injury. Lift slowly and smoothly from the thighs, not the back. After picking up a heavy item, hold it close to the body. Use mechanical aids whenever possible to reduce the likelihood of back injuries.
6. Train workers on all tools and equipment
Heavy machinery introduces risks into the workplace when employees do not use equipment properly. Anyone who works with specific machinery should receive training. In addition, equipment should be regularly checked to ensure it stays in working order.
7. Report all hazards immediately
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Encourage workers to report any unsafe conditions they notice in the facility to prevent injuries. Emphasizing the culture of safety increases reporting.
8. Understand chemical hazards
Workers in many industries encounter dozens of chemicals every day. Companies need to maintain a knowledge of all the chemicals they use and understand the health effects. OSHA recommends transitioning to safer chemicals. Some compounds have alternatives that present fewer health risks to employees. Only a small number of chemicals are regulated in the workplace, and 190,000 illnesses and 50,000 deaths are the result of chemical exposure every year, according to OSHA. Janitorial, automotive, pathology labs and other industries may be able to switch to chemicals that are less hazardous to workers and the environment.
9. Use the right personal protective equipment for the job
With risks in nearly every industry, some sectors must provide personal protective equipment for employees. All employees need to be educated on how to use PPE, and all gear should fit well and be comfortable, which encourages employees to make use of it. When it comes to disposable gloves for barrier protection, employers need to be mindful of chemical and puncture resistance, fit and latex sensitivities. All PPE should be tested before implemented across an organization. In addition to gloves, companies may need face masks, sleeves and other protective coverings.