Workplace safety should be built into any company’ corporate culture, no matter what the nature of the business. Whether you’re running a sheet metal manufacturing plant or a retail outfit, hazards in the workplace exist and need to be addressed.
Safety in the workplace takes many forms, from regular janitorial maintenance to training employees in the correct use and storage of hazardous materials.
Common hazards in workplace settings include:
- Slipping, tripping, and falling hazards,
- Unguarded machinery and moving parts,
- Electrical hazards,
- Confined spaces,
- Working at height,
- Machinery-related hazards.
Tripping and slipping hazards can occur in any environment and can often be resolved with regular maintenance. Working at heights requires the use of safety harnesses, platforms, and nets—and training employees in the use of such protective gear.
Regular maintenance and inspection of machinery eliminates many machinery and electrical hazards, as does a comprehensive employee training program in the use of such equipment.
Other challenges to workplace safety include;
- Biological hazards (infectious agents, blood, fungi or mold, insect bites, human waste and animal or bird droppings)
- Physical hazards (radiation, excessive sunlight, temperature extremes, ultraviolet light, and ear-damaging noise levels)
- Ergonomic hazards (improperly adjusted chairs or workstations, awkward or repetitive movements, using too much force, machine vibrations)
- Chemical hazards (acids, paints, solvents, vapors and fumes, gases, and pesticides)
- Work organization hazards (stress, sexual harassment, lack of respect and recognition, work intensity, and the threat of workplace violence)
Working towards safety in the Workplace
Each industry has its own, unique workplace safety hazards, and these hazards must be accounted for as well as more general safety concerns. Performing a workplace safety assessment helps identify and control hazards in the workplace. Briefly, the process goes as follows:
Identify all hazards in the workplace. To identify workplace safety issues, begin with an inspection of the workplace, itemizing all potential hazards. Review OSHA safety standards and look into control measures used in similar workplaces. Get input from employees, whose experience in the workplace may uncover hazards you have not considered and consult with safety experts for complicated hazards.
Select your control measures. Control measures for safety in the workplace follow a hierarchy:
i. Physically remove the hazard.
ii. Replace the hazard with a safer alternative.
iii. Isolate people from the hazard.
iv. Change how people work through new procedures and training.
V. Use personal protective equipment.
Control measures should be considered (and if needed eliminated) in order of importance to ensure optimal safety in the workplace.
Develop a hazard control plan. List all workplace hazards in order of priority and assign responsibility for implementing controls to a specific person or team. Assign a deadline for completion dates, arrange any safety training in the workplace, and establish a plan to track the plan’s progress and the efficiency of controls.
Develop a plan for emergencies. Fires, severe weather, natural disasters and building evacuations aren’t routine events, but emergency planning still needs to be part of your hazard plan.