Common hazards in the workplace include poor housekeeping, unsafe working practices, the failure to use protective equipment, and the incorrect use of tools. By paying proper attention to workplace hazards, together employers and employees can reduce accidents and create a safer environment.
A good start is to introduce regular safety audits to identify risky work practices. Then implement corrective actions that enhance workplace safety. A crucial factor is the development of a safety awareness culture where workers continuously evaluate the potential for workplace incidents during their daily tasks. Five common health and safety hazards in the workplace are tripping hazards, working at heights, use of forklifts, incorrect tool use, and not using PPE.
Identify Tripping Hazards
Anything lying on the floor that obstructs working or walking spaces is a tripping hazard. As a first step toward a safe workplace, remove all trash and scrap material. This includes anything not required, especially obsolete equipment and furniture. Neatly store materials in designated areas and don't allow workers to leave anything in walkways or on roadways. Demarcate pathways and roadways for forklifts and other moving machinery. Keep floors clean and, if painted, use nonslip paint. Secure cables and extension cords, and never leave them lying on the floor where someone can trip over them and fall.
Working at Heights
There are two specific workplace hazards when people work above ground level. There's the danger of falling and the risk of dropping tools and equipment.
When employees work above ground level, provide them with suitable safety equipment and supplies. Ladders should be long enough to reach necessary heights, kept in sound condition, and properly secured so they can't fall. Construct scaffolding in accordance with the correct codes and regularly check on it. If there's a need to reach inaccessible equipment such as lights, use an aerial platform. Never use a forklift to raise employees off the ground.
Don't allow unauthorized personnel in the area. Erect danger tape or temporary fencing. Provide hard hats for employees working in the space as protection against dropped objects.
Forklifts and Reach Trucks
For all their versatility, forklifts and reach trucks in warehousing are potentially dangerous and their misuse is responsible for many accidents.
It's essential that forklift operators have a license to drive the machinery and that they go through a thorough training program. They need to be aware of other forklifts and pedestrian traffic. Prohibit unnecessary speeding and keep pedestrians away from areas where workers operate the machinery.
Forklift drivers and employees also need to be aware of the operating characteristics of forklifts and reach trucks. The operators must never drive with the load raised and should be continually aware of blind spots obstructing their vision. Workers need to wear reflective clothing and keep clear of danger. Overloading is dangerous and must be forbidden.
Incorrect Use of Tools
Many workers suffer injuries such as strains and cuts through the incorrect use of tools. Areas most affected include hands, wrists, and arms. This is especially the situation for employees who are not trained artisans but who work with tools extensively. Examples include production line workers and those who lift, carry, and package materials.
Train employees in the correct use of tools and equipment. Also, make them aware of the dangers of poor posture and the potential to harm their fingers and joints as a result of excessive strain. Workers should assess the safety of tools supplied and seek solutions that minimize the potential for accident or injury.
Common Hazards in the Workplace Include Failure to Use PPE
Personal protective equipment (PPE) safeguards employees against common hazards. The most typical PPE items include footwear, hard hats, gloves, eye protection, and clothing. Human nature being what it is, employees commonly find numerous reasons why their PPE is unsuitable or uncomfortable and don’t wear it.
As a result, many injuries occur that are avoidable. Managers must enforce the wearing and proper use of protective equipment. You can increase employee comfort by purchasing well-made PPE that correctly fits each person. Additionally, managers should monitor compliance and when appropriate, recommending more suitable PPE, if necessary.
Maintaining Safety Awareness
Humans have a natural tendency to take shortcuts. These inevitably lead to situations where the risk of accidents increases. Here are four ways to counteract this tendency.
- Regular safety inspections: Conduct routine workplace audits and inspections to identify safety issues and to ensure workers are using PPE and working safely
- Training: Keep a training register and make certain all workers periodically receive safety training; train new employees before allowing them into the workplace
- Safety equipment and signage: Maintain a log of safety equipment and replace when any becomes old or worn; provide signage to inform people of risks and the requirement to wear PPE
- Pedestrian zones: Demarcate safe pedestrian zones where employees can walk out of harm's way; enforce discipline against vehicle drivers who ignore these zones and pedestrians who stray out of walkways
Use this video to highlight the need for managing pedestrian and traffic safety in your workplace.