What would you do if you couldn't work because of an injury? Even with worker's compensation, both your finances and your pride can take a hit when you're unable to provide for your family. Chances are, your company has workplace health and safety rules, as well as safety equipment to protect you from workplace hazards. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professionals specialize in accident prevention and safety measures, but employee safety is really everyone's responsibility. Beyond obvious measures like avoiding common workplace hazards, what can you do to protect your body and your income? These safety-in-the-workplace tips give you personal strategies to stay safe and healthy.
1) Get Enough Sleep
This can be especially tough for shift workers, but it's absolutely crucial. As this article from EHS Today points out, lack of sleep leads to an increased number of errors, greater risk-taking behavior and an inability to make good decisions. In an industrial setting, any of those could have deadly consequences. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults 18 to 64 years.
2) Watch the Caffeine
Scientists can't seem to agree on whether caffeine is good for you or not, so following the rule of moderation applies. Anything beyond a few cups of Joe a day is probably too much. Besides, you followed tip number one, so you're well rested and don't rely on a caffeine boost to get through the day, right?
There's more than quantity to consider with caffeine. It comes in plenty of forms: coffee, tea, green tea or matcha. Only you can decide how each type affects you. How do you feel after a cup? Pleasantly alert or downright jittery? If it's the latter, consider switching beverages. Experiment with how your body responds to different forms of caffeine to find a healthy boost rather than a mule's kick in your morning mug.
3) Use The Right Tool
Use the right tool for the job. This seems self-explanatory, but how often have you reached for what's closest and not what's safest? Workers are conscious of production and delivery deadlines, but cutting corners by ignoring safety equipment or using a tool incorrectly is likely to lead to a shutdown or a missed deadline. Maybe the right tool is never where you need it. Talk to your supervisor or OHS professional about adjusting your work space or purchasing more of that tool. Your safety is worth it.
4) Fill up Your Tank
Maybe you've heard about being hangry. It's a combination of hungry and angry and we've all been there. When your body isn't properly fed, you feel impatient and edgy. In a work situation, this can lead to mistakes and injuries.
You might need to do a bit of experimenting to find the right amount and type of food for you. Breakfast cereal is often a crash-and-burn choice, while oatmeal keeps you full much longer. Nutritionists recommend protein for a steady stream of energy. So make sure you're getting protein throughout your day: nuts, eggs, meat, cheese or yogurt. The internet abounds with healthy snack and breakfast ideas. Search according to your needs and find something you enjoy.
5) Strike a Pose
One of the most common workplace injuries is strain from poor lifting technique. When we're young, most of us feel invincible and ignore proper posture while lifting, but we do so at our peril, especially as we age. Back injuries are painful, require a long time to heal and affect every aspect of our mobility. The UK's National Health Service (NHS) offers online advice on how to lift properly.
6) Mum's the Word
Many industrial jobs include tasks that require concentration. Tasks like cutting, delicate adjustments, operating heavy machinery or handling hazardous materials all need your full attention. So, as tempting as it might be, avoid chatter on the floor. Water coolers and break rooms are there for letting off steam or planning the next shinny hockey game. Take full advantage of your breaks so you won't be distracted in potentially dangerous situations.
7) Grab Your Partner
Rock climbers always go climbing in pairs. They check each others' knots and harnesses and belay each other for safety. The same should be true for potentially dangerous industrial equipment. If your company doesn't have an OHS policy that includes a maintenance schedule and regular equipment checks, make the suggestion. If you don't feel heard, grab a buddy and do the checks for each other. Because no amount of worker's compensation can truly make up for a serious injury like a lost limb.
8) Shake It Up
We've all had moments where we don't really remember going through our daily routine. Most of us don't remember details of the drive to work, for example. That's because it's become an ingrained habit, a routine that the brain handles almost unconsciously after plenty of repetition. If your workday allows it, try changing your routine to prevent your actions from getting too automatic. This is especially true if you regularly perform routines with dangerous equipment or hazardous materials. Just changing the time of day or the order of your actions (within safe limits) can ensure that you're paying full attention when you need to be.
9) PET Scan
On the other hand, you can take advantage of how our brains handle routine. You can create new routines or consciously change existing routines to make them more safety oriented. A specific example of this is the PET scan we introduced on our blog in April. You know your work situation best. If there's a particular order of tasks that will make you safer, write it down and repeat it until it becomes an automatic part of your day.
10) Take it to the Top
If your immediate supervisor doesn't prioritize safety, don't be afraid to take the matter up the chain of command. If you're worried about being labeled a 'complainer', try framing your request in terms of how much company money is saved by safe and healthy workers. Injuries cost employers big time. In fact, the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that a single laceration injury costs a company, on average, a total of $63,000 in direct and indirect costs. Show them OSHA's Safety Pays estimator if they need further convincing. And remind them that OSHA's fine for workplace safety violations are going up significantly in July 2016. Even if your employer isn't interested in safety, he or she will be interested in the bottom line.
Can you think of any more personal strategies to boost safety at work?
How can I successfully implement new safety initiatives?
How do I get buy-in from management and workers?
What’s the best way to build trust and rapport?
Should EHS be a C-Suite position?
We explore these questions and more on the Safety Labs by Slice podcast. Check us out using the links below.