Safety at work is important, and you can reduce accidents by focusing on key workplace safety topics. According to American and British safety organizations, three dominant factors account for most worksite injuries. These are injuries caused by employees overexerting their bodies, by falling, tripping or slipping, and by inadvertent contact with machinery and equipment. Virtually all these incidents are preventable through creating and enforcing a culture of safety awareness.
Digging Into Common Reasons for Workplace Injuries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiles and reports injury statistics annually. Its 2015 Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Report reveals that 82.8 percent of nonfatal injuries fall within three major categories: overexertion, falls, and accidental contact with machinery and equipment. By addressing these issues, employers can significantly reduce injuries in the work environment and simultaneously improve productivity. Here's how to achieve this.
Overexertion may result in muscle strain and damage. This extremely common injury happens when employees perform tasks requiring some degree of physical exertion and they adopt the wrong postures. The most obvious example is trying to lift or move a heavy load without assistance. Although there is no common standard as to what represents excessive strain, managers can reduce these incidents by setting guidelines and providing training on moving and lifting heavy loads and operating equipment.
Trips and Slips
Injuries caused by employees tripping over objects or losing their balance on slippery floors are common and second only to muscle strain. You can greatly reduce these incidents by keeping walkways clear at all times and storing tools, equipment, and materials out of harm's way and preferably off the floor. Keep walking surfaces clean and promptly remove liquid spills or slippery substances. Pay special attention to demarcating steps, curbs, and other tripping hazards and coating floors with
Contact With Machinery or Equipment
The third major factor contributing toward injuries at work is accidental contact with equipment and machinery. Adequately guard moving equipment and fit suitable interlocks to dangerous machines to prevent access and to protect operators' hands and other exposed body parts. In locations where people use forklifts and other vehicles, fit the equipment with warning lights or buzzers and segregate walkways and roadways.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, Great Britain accident statistics from 2016 show that falls from heights were a leading cause of fatal injuries in the United Kingdom. This term applies to any fall from one level to another. When employees work above ground, whether on temporary or permanent structures, take special precautions to ensure there's adequate guarding and secure temporary supports such as ladders.
Create an Understanding and Appreciation of Key Safety Topics for the Workplace
There's a common thread that runs through these accident and injury statistics. This is the fact that employees are directly or indirectly responsible for most accidents that occur at work. The number of injuries caused by factors outside their control is low. You can help them avoid these incidents if you continually make them aware of the need to think and act safety at all times. There are four ways to accomplish this.
Discuss safety at regular staff meetings. It's a good idea for managers to spend time beforehand researching workplace safety topics for meetings. This ensures the talks are relevant and interesting. Meetings are the perfect forum to discuss work practices and how to improve safety. Talking about this important topic during your factory floor discussions goes a long way toward making safety a daily routine.
Because there's only limited time available at shop floor meetings, schedule periodic safety training for all employees where you can give a more formal workplace safety topics presentation. When you have new staff members, provide them with basic safety training during orientation so they are up to speed with the company's standards before they reach the floor. Keep a record of all training and make certain you periodically organize refresher sessions.
Equipment and Tools
Pay particular attention to the tools and equipment you provide your staff. Ensure tools are suitable for the tasks that employees perform and that your workers correctly maintain them. Always consider the potential for what can go wrong and select the safest alternatives. For example, steel-bladed utility knives easily pierce the skin and can cause serious wounds, whereas Slice utility knives are fitted with durable blades that are adequately sharp but are finger friendly and don't easily penetrate skin. Also, put a lot of thought into selecting comfortable and durable protective equipment such as gloves, shoes, and clothing.
Keep safety in employees' minds by putting up posters that cover relevant safety topics for the workplace. Keep the information interesting by periodically updating signs. Where you staff must wear protective equipment, use placards to remind everyone of that requirement. If there are specific hazards such as fast-moving forklifts, place warning signs in prominent locations. Carefully selected and located safety posters are invaluable resources for reminding employees of worksite risks.
Key Factors for Enhancing Health and Safety
The information published by the BLS shows that four out every five injuries is largely preventable. Avoid preventable accidents by paying special attention to these four key factors:
- Ergonomics: Prevent body strain by focusing on ergonomics in the workplace
- Housekeeping: Keep work areas and access routes clean, clear, and free of debris and liquids
- Machinery: Maintain equipment in good working order and install guards to prevent unintentional contact
- Hand tools: Provide appropriate tools and equipment designed for ease of use and safety
Importance of Effective Supervision
Your responsibility as a manager includes the requirement to ensure workshop safety. This involves more than talking about the subject; you need to supervise employees and ensure that they adhere to proper working procedures. Continually observe the workplace, keeping an eye out for lapses in judgment. Use safety training videos to make yourself and your staff members aware of accident risks and the responsibility for workplace health and safety.
Ensuring safety at work is the ongoing responsibility of all employees and supervisors. This duty extends to all aspects of safety, including the adoption of proper working practices, avoiding excessive strain, good housekeeping, and the appropriate selection and maintenance of machinery and hand tools. Follow these tips and keep workplace safety topics relevant and top-of-mind for staff members and you'll go a long way towards doing your part to avoid accidents on your work site.
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.