In 2021 alone, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported over 1,300 workplace injuries, fatalities, and incidents that called for immediate inspections. This figure has been rising compared to recent years as well.
Businesses of all sizes and industries are still grappling with occupational safety measures. Those who take charge and protect their personnel from workplace injury or illness benefit greatly from fewer workflow disruptions, higher employee satisfaction, and fewer legal complications.
These tips and considerations provide a basic idea of how you can ensure occupational health and safety in your organization to benefit your employees and your bottom line.
- What Is Workplace Safety?
- Identifying the Hazards at Work
- Tips and Recommendations for Personnel
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Watch Your Posture
- Take Regular Breaks
- Follow Operating Instructions
- Have the Right Tools for the Job
- Undergo Emergency Preparation
- Facilitate Open Communication
- Take Control of Safety Hazards at Work with Mobile Inspection Software
What Is Workplace Safety?
A business’s workplace safety program covers all the policies and efforts from management and personnel that mitigate safety risks and reduce the chance of on-site injury at work. Both employees and their supervisors must work together to scan for risks thoroughly and implement corrective action whenever necessary.
Workplace safety is always worth the investment because it brings:
- Increased productivity thanks to fewer days away from work due to injury.
- Cost savings from fewer insurance claims.
- Stronger staff morale when they know that you value their safety.
- A better track record when it comes to legal compliance.
Safety is easy to overlook when the workday gets busy, but companies must continue to emphasize the importance of following health and safety procedures. These standardized processes determine precisely how to complete tasks with minimal risk.
Identifying the Hazards at Work
Workplace hazards come in many forms, whether in an office building or a construction site.
- Physical hazards include pressure, noise, pinch points, trip hazards, and heights.
- Ergonomic problems in many workplaces stem from repetitive motions, uncomfortable postures, and poorly-designed workstations.
- Electrical hazards include extension cords, power strips, and exposed wiring.
- Chemical or biological hazards, common in industrial facilities, can cause respiratory irritation, skin injuries, and infection from mold, dust, or microorganisms.
- Psychological hazards—like stress, violence, and sexual harassment—directly impact mental wellbeing.
Some specific examples of workplace hazards are below, and many safety experts consider them the most prevalent today.
- Fire hazards caused over a hundred workplace fatalities in 2019 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, not to mention billions of dollars in damages. Businesses need to check the state of their fire hydrants, extinguishers, ventilation systems, and emergency exits to mitigate fire safety risks.
- Slips and falls, while not usually fatal, can result in fractures and injuries. They are the leading cause of employee compensation claims in the United States. Check your workspace for wet or slippery surfaces and ensure proper lighting throughout the office. Even minor issues like messy cables or uneven ground can result in incidents.
- Chemical accidents require businesses to label and store away correctly potentially dangerous chemicals. Side effects of exposure must be on the label, and remember to store them according to manufacturer recommendations. For instance, combustible chemicals require a fireproof storage container. Employees also need proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling them.
- Moving machinery, from vehicles to forklifts, is a major cause for workplace injury. Always check for defects in the equipment (tire pressure, hydraulic hoses, etc.) and wear the proper equipment when operating machinery (finger guards, hard hats, seat belts, etc.).
Machinery can also be a hazard when not in use. To prevent accidental startups, personnel must ensure that electrical equipment is shut down when the workday ends, hence the lockout, tagout (LOTO) system:
- Identify the machine, its location, energy sources, and procedures for shutdown.
- Disconnect primary energy sources like electricity and secondary energy sources like spring tension and pressure.
- Lock the machine with a physical LOTO device.
- Notify employees of the shutdown.
- Ensure that only authorized personnel may remove the device and turn the machine back on later.
Most companies assume that safety hazards are only worth considering for factories or industrial settings, but even office safety hazards require your attention, such as unergonomic workstations, eye strain from computer monitors, fire hazards, and air quality concerns.
Tips and Recommendations for Personnel
Workplace safety isn’t just the responsibility of upper management. Everyone in the company must work together to adhere to safety guidelines and policies. Employees are also responsible for their own health and safety at work.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Whether the equipment you use or the hazardous areas of the facility to watch for, understand the unique hazards specific to your workplace.
Stay awake and attentive, especially around heavy machinery. Staff safety hinges heavily on the employees’ concentration, judgment, and overall alertness. Almost all companies have policies against the influence of drugs and alcohol for this reason.
Watch Your Posture
Back, shoulder, and hip problems are common in many industries. And many of these injuries are the result of many months of lousy posture rather than a single incident. Avoid hunching over too much in an office chair, for example.
When lifting objects, use both hands, keep your back straight, and lift slowly while holding the load close to your body. Test weights before lifting them, and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if one is too heavy.
Take Regular Breaks
Studies have shown that fatigue has a similar impact as intoxication at work. Not taking breaks compromises your awareness and increases the chance of a safety incident. Regular rest not only helps you stay fresh mentally but also mitigates the potential for injury due to repetitive movements.
Follow Operating Instructions
Follow the precautions and operating instructions of machinery to the dot. Some employees may cut corners or skip steps to finish more quickly, but these shortcuts can cost more in the long run in terms of safety risks.
Never leave machinery unattended while running, and avoid tampering with safety guards, cords, switches, and other hazardous items.
Don’t forget to communicate with those around you. Even if someone else is operating a machine, stay away from blind spots. If something goes wrong, stop the machine and ask for assistance.
Have the Right Tools for the Job
On top of keeping tools in good working order, keep machinery and tools exclusive to the staff with the training and authorization to use them properly.
Equip them with personal protective equipment (PPE)—such as hard hats, gloves, goggles, or breathing masks—whenever necessary. Discourage employees from ignoring PPE to save time.
Ladders are a common source of injury on most job sites. Ensure that the ladder is not wet or slippery. Check it for damage and make sure it’s at the right angle and positioning for use. Don’t overload a ladder by having more than one person climb it simultaneously.
Undergo Emergency Preparation
Preparing for emergencies is the best way to minimize the chance of a safety incident happening during one. For example, get ready for fire hazards by clearing the facility of combustible or flammable materials. Know where all the fire extinguishers and first aid kits are.
Clean the workspace by stowing away materials and equipment and clearing emergency exit routes.
Facilitate Open Communication
Foster a corporate culture of open communication. Many staff members might be hesitant to report safety hazards to their supervisors, so encourage them to do so. Supervisors should work closely with staff to cover topics ranging from physical safety to stress at work.
Awareness is another consideration. Provide training and resources to the staff so they may stay up-to-date with the latest safety policies and operating procedures for machinery. Have experienced team members guide new employees into the company’s safety culture.
Take Control of Safety Hazards at Work with Mobile Inspection Software
Not all workplace hazards are obvious. Instead of waiting for an incident to happen, cover all your bases today by building a safety compliance checklist specific to your organization.
This data-focused approach gives you company-wide visibility into personnel safety and even tracks corrective actions in case you find any hazards. Schedule follow-ups through reminders and notifications and ensure everybody collaborates to mitigate safety risks at your workplace.
Want to have more control over the health and safety of your personnel? Discover how monitorQA can enable powerful mobile applications to identify and address even the most subtle safety hazards at work, all while maintaining high productivity standards.
Start your 14-day free trial today to learn more.