According to the National Safety Council, approximately 4 million workers are injured on the job every year. Transportation, manufacturing, maintenance repair and construction, contribute to the highest number of workplace injuries. If you are involved in an accident while working, the resulting injury might prevent you from living a normal life. While it’s the responsibility of the employer to ensure the workplace is safe, you also have a role to play as an employee. So, what can you do to remain safe if you are working in a hazardous workplace? Here are some vital safety tips to consider:
Follow Safety Standards
Every workplace has a safety standard manual. Make sure you read and understand all the guidelines listed in that manual. Such information will be helpful in case of an emergency situation. And if the guidelines are not clear, make sure you seek clarification from your supervisor or from a fellow worker. If you find that even your colleagues don’t understand some of the guidelines listed in the safety standards manual, it’s highly advisable to take it up with the management, so that they can organize and conduct a collective training session for all the employees. If your company has purchased new work machines, you should ensure that you understand the new safety procedures that go along with that equipment. Just because you’ve used similar equipment before, doesn’t mean that the same safety protocols will apply for the new machine. There is no room for assumptions, especially when you are working in hazardous environments.
Use Equipment Properly
Improper use of equipment, machines, and tools, is one of the biggest contributors to workplace injuries. Every tool or machine at the workplace is designed for a certain task or purpose. Therefore, they should be used for their intended purpose. As much as two tools might look alike, they might have different uses and applications. And you should use them as such. For instance, a sledgehammer and a claw hammer are both hammers. However, one is meant for light applications while the one is designed for heavy blows. Also, you should ensure that all the tools and machines you are using are in proper working condition. Some workers have ended up with serious injuries for working with faulty or worn-out machines. It’s important to note that wear and tear is a gradual process. Every day you go to work, take a few minutes to inspect the tools you will be working with. Even the slightest form of wear and tear is enough to cause serious injuries. But with proper inspection, you will be in a position to detect such forms of tear early enough and report to your supervisor for replacement. When you are installing machinery, appliances or equipment, make sure the installation procedure is followed to the letter.
Take Regular Breaks
Working when you are tired can lead to decreased cognitive abilities, slower reaction time, irritability and increased rate of injuries and accidents. The increased rate of injuries and accidents usually stems from impaired motor skills, lower concentration and lack of alertness. As much as occupational fatigue can affect any worker, it’s highly prevalent in industries where employees work for long hours with few breaks in between, such as drivers, nurses and factory workers. People who work multiple shifts with minimal rest are also at risk of suffering from fatigue. Prolonged exposure to various health hazards like chemicals and noise, can also contribute to fatigue. And if you are operating heavy machinery when you are fatigued, you might end causing serious accidents at the workplace.
If your occupation entails working for long hours, you should make sure that you take frequent circulation breaks. Also, make sure you tackle the difficult tasks first and then move on to the lighter ones when you start feeling tired. You should also spare a few minutes of your break to perform some stretching exercises. Stretching will relieve stress, reduce anxiety, reduce muscle soreness, improve your posture and boost blood circulation. Stretching will also help to reduce the risk of injuries that come with prolonged standing or sitting while improving muscle balance and coordination. Taking regular breaks and stretching your body for just a few minutes during your shift, will help to reduce fatigue, increase your alertness and make you more productive at the workplace. And most importantly, it will help to minimize workplace injuries.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Every workplace has potential hazards and dangers. That hazard might be a running conveyor belt, heavy falling objects, moving machinery or loose cables. The best way to remain safe is to be familiar with your work environment. The more familiar you are with your work environment, the easier it will be to keep yourself safe. Also, you should check your workplace every morning to make sure that everything is where it’s supposed to be. For instance, a colleague might have forgotten to switch off a tool they were using, since they left the workplace in a hurry – to attend their child’s birthday party. Such carelessness can lead to workplace injuries. If you are the site supervisor, you should ensure that all tools are properly packed and stored where they should, before everyone leaves the job site. Any hazardous area should be properly labeled with the right caution signs. Knowing your work environment and being aware of possible hazards will help to avoid dangerous situations and keep everyone safe at the workplace.
Maintain a Clean Workplace
Keeping your workplace clean will not only keep you organized, but it will also make you more productive. Also, it will help to keep the workplace safe for everyone. Collect sharp objects from the floor and clean spills immediately. You should also ensure that your wipe and dust your workstation or work area every day. Exposure to hazardous conditions and materials at your workplace might lead to various health problems. As much as cleaning might not be part of your job description, your personal safety is much more important. Also, make sure you keep the emergency exits clear at all times. If an exit is blocked or obstructed, it will prevent you from escaping quickly in case of an emergency. Everyone at the workplace should also be aware of where the emergency equipment shutoffs are located.
Use Correct Lifting Posture
Whether you work in a construction site or in a factory, it’s always vital to maintain the right posture when you are working. Whenever you are lifting something, make sure you keep your back straight while making sure that your feet are firmly planted on the ground. If you are lifting something heavy from the ground, you should use the appropriate mechanical aid. And if the mechanical aid is not available at the moment, then you should do so with the help of your partner. Ensure the mechanical aids you are using are in good working condition. Adopting the proper lifting posture and using the right mechanical aids will help to prevent back and neck injuries. If you experience any pain or discomfort when you are trying to lift something, you should stop right away, and inform your supervisor. In short, don’t overexert yourself or take shortcuts when lifting items at your workplace, as you might end up injuring yourself or your colleagues.
Wear the Right Gear
Every year, thousands of workplace-related injuries and accidents occur, mainly due to the absence of safety clothing or personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE refers to equipment and garments, which help workers to avoid accidents and injuries. They include items like high visibility clothing, helmets, safety footwear, eye protection, respiratory protective equipment, and safety harnesses, among others.
- Head protection: Helmets are common in construction sites all over the globe. They are designed to protect the worker against flying or falling objects. Some hard hats come with additional accessories earmuffs and face shields, for additional protection.
- Face and eye protection: Safety spectacles and googles will protect your eyes from extreme light exposure or sharp objects like flying pieces of metal or wood. Woodworkers and metal workers should always have a face and eye protection when working.
- Respiratory protection: If there are toxic substances at your workplace such as pesticides, fumes, paint spray, and dust, then you need to cover your mouth and nose. Inadequate protection against these harmful materials might lead to various respiratory diseases, as well as cancer.
- Skin and hand protection: Almost all jobs require the use of hands. And every year, thousands of hand injuries occur. Also, if you work in a hazardous environment, you are at risk of getting occupational skin diseases like skin cancer, dermatitis, as well as other skin infections. Treating these infections and injuries is costly. It also means that you will not be able to work anymore. And this is where gloves come in. Gloves will protect you from various workplace hazards. Some of the most commonly used gloves include rubber gloves, heat-resistant gloves, chainsaw gloves, leather gloves, and cut-resistant gloves, among others.
Apart from eyes, hand, skin, respiratory and head protection, you also need to protect your feet if you are working in a hazardous environment. Foot injuries can occur from punctures, falling objects, hot materials, lacerations, trips, slips, and falls. The hazards you face at your workplace will determine whether you need a pair of soft toe work boots (reviews here), steel toe work boots (more reviews here) or composite toe work boots (yet more reviews here).
Workplace accidents come in many forms, from a severed finger when cutting wood to a sprained ankle from a fall. Regardless of how risky your work environment is, most workplace injuries or illnesses can be avoided. By being aware of the potential hazards at your workplace and taking the necessary measures to mitigate those risks, you will stay safe, healthy and productive throughout the year.