Tagged with 'Workplace Safety'

Looking Ahead: Workplace Safety in 2017

workplace safety in 2017It's a new year, but what does that actually mean for workplace safety? Realistically speaking, the main difference between this year and last is that it's a new time frame for safety statistics to be taken. However, it's also a solid timeframe to set and reach new personal (and team) goals in the workplace.
Surely this year will bring new safety regulations set forth by various institutions as well as improvements in the areas of safety equipment development - both of which come naturally with the progression of time. Regardless, it's important to understand that additional regulations don't necessarily make for a safer work environment. The only real changes that will take place are dependent on you and your coworkers; your awareness, work habits, and willingness to teach, learn and improve all of these things for the benefit of everyone.
Let's take a look at something interesting.
When the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported their revised (and final) numbers for the 2014 work year, they noted a 5.1% increase over the previous year for workers who died from traumatic events. Additionally, falls/slips/trips increased by 13% in the same time period. Furthermore, there was an increase in deaths among older workers as well as temporary and/or contract workers. These were primarily increases in the sectors of agriculture, mining, construction and manufacturing.
According to experts, the increase was not a result of economical upsurge.
On April 26, of 2016 The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) released a report titled Preventable Deaths 2016 which outlines more than 100,000 annual deaths related to direct workplace trauma, as well as from long-term exposure to on-the-job hazards. The report outlines many issues, shortcomings, and preventative measures geared towards a safer, more productive work environment across a variety of sectors and occupations.
Particularly alarming are the statistics for fatal injuries in mining (up 17%) and agriculture (up 14%), manufacturing (up 9%) and construction (up 6%). Fatal injuries for workers 55 and over were the highest they've ever been. Female workers experienced a 13% overall increase in fatal work injuries in 2014 as compared to 2013.
Now, it's important to note that these numbers take a while to come in and be thoroughly evaluated. At first glance, 2014 was thought to be a better year than 2013 in regards to fatalities; it took nearly 2 years to realize 2014 was more lethal.
The real questions we need to be asking are "How and why?" are fatalities increasing?
With our current technology and with our highly developed safety equipment and safety standards, why are more people dying? Do we not live in an age where we should be able to eliminate a rather large percentage of workplace injuries and deaths? Are we really so careless? Are employers to blame? Are employees simply disregarding the best-practices for their occupations? Is it more complicated than providing a simple answer???
Of course there are many factors that contribute to each and every fatality. It wouldn't be fair or honest to place the blame on a single area or group of people without the proper data to back it up. Nonetheless, something is preventing us from seeing a solid decline. Over the decades, we have surely seen the numbers decrease, but is it really enough? Can't we do better? Is the pursuit of profits and paychecks really taking priority over safety? Are we all so ignorant as to assume "It can't happen to me"?
We don't have the answers, and we're not sure that anyone actually does. Mistakes will happen, and accidents will happen - which is why we call them "accidents".
What we do know, as a fact, is that a safer workplace begins with YOU. Whether you're a boss or a manager, supervisor or laborer, short-term or long-term employee; it begins with you. We all need to take the initiative to create a better workplace for ourselves and our co-workers. We need to be setting the example for the next generation of workers. We need to let our intelligence and abilities shine, proving that we're capable of performing our jobs safely. After all, the information is out there. We're living in a world of unlimited resources and ignorance is not a very valid excuse. We need to look out for one another as well as ourselves.
Now, we'd also like to mention that the overwhelming majority of workers do take safety quite seriously - but that doesn't mean there is no room for improvement. Is a human life really worth an hour of saved work? Or even a few minutes? Is pressuring your employees or co-workers to work dangerously really profitable? Is taking a risk that you "think" is okay really worth a lifetime in a wheelchair, or a family without a father or mother?
We like to think that we all have the best intentions in mind. We believe that most workers have a fear and awareness of workplace hazards, yet we're still confident that we can all make tiny improvements. Whether you're working alone or as a team, it's important to think things through. Be timely yet safe, effective yet cautious. Don't let the stresses of the job frustrate you and get the best of you. Safety comes first.
Here's to hoping you're able to take something away from this post. We encourage you to make 2017 a better year in the workplace, even if you had a flawless 2016. Give a pointer to the new guy. Take that extra safety class. Keep up with safety advancements in your field. Lend a helping hand. Point out hazards that might otherwise go unnoticed. Give your best effort to make your workplace a safe, productive, and respectable one in 2017.
Have a great year and stay safe out there!

Winter Workplace Safety: Best Practices

winter workplace safetyFor many of us who work outdoors, the coldest part of the year is approaching. This includes harsh winds, frigid temperatures and slippery surfaces that nobody really looks forward to. In addition to the general discomforts of the temperature, winter brings with it an noticeable increase in work-related hazards.
To survive the winter workplace while maintaining productivity and safety, it's important to utilize time-tested best practices. While some of these things may seem like common sense, now is the perfect time for a review and to prepare for the changes in routine that lie ahead.

Dressing for the Weather

Yes, this one may be clear as day - you can't head to work in jeans and a t-shirt. The cold weather demands appropriate protection, but it's more complicated than that. It's possible to be too warm, too bulky, or too limited in movement - all things that can affect your safety and performance.
If your job duties are strenuous, dress in layers. Consider wearing a sweatshirt under your jacket that can be removed when your body heat rises during have activity. You'll need to be sure to keep your head and face warm depending on the intensity of the weather, but be sure that any headwear doesn't limit your field of vision. Gloves are a must-have; be sure they fit well and offer a safe grip for any tools or materials you might be handling. Waterproof boots will help keep your feet warm and dry, while heavy-knit socks such as wool will protect your toes from prolonged cold.

Driving and Operating Heavy Equipment

Even if there's no heavy equipment operation, chances are you'll be driving to and from work each day. Winter roads are cold, which provides less traction against your rubber tires. Rain, sleet and snow can create highly dangerous driving conditions, even for the most experienced driver. If the weather is bad, be sure to allow yourself additional time to arrive at work. You'll need to leave early, drive slower, and give your undivided attention during your commute. Be sure to carry an winter emergency kit in your vehicle at all times just in case things get really bad.
For heavy equipment operators, it's important to pay close attention to even the smallest changes in wind and temperature. Surfaces can become slick and materials can be harder to handle. In snowy conditions, hazard can be camouflaged by snow cover. A co-worker could slip on the ice behind your vehicle and be at risk of serious injury or death should you not realize they've fell. Take your time, be aware, and don't rush things. Winter weather requires a different approach to how you operate your equipment.

General Tasks and Hazards

There are probably too many winter hazards to list here, but the majority of them are the direct result of wet and slippery surfaces. While a slip and fall is bad, a slip and fall with a concrete saw in your hand can change your life. When we say to proceed with caution, we can't express that enough.
Job sites are often ridden with hazards and when a slippery surface is added into the equation, simple errors can prove deadly. Slipping under a machine can cause you to be crushed and killed, while smacking your head on a pipe or steel beam as you fall can cause serious head trauma or worse. Take your time, be careful where you step/stand and be sure to use boots designed for winter traction. Depending on your work environment, you might even consider investing in Ice Traction Devices which are affordable and highly effective.
Other hazards of the winter include melting ice that can fall from buildings or equipments, pooled water that poses a risk of electrical shock, snow cover that might mask dangerous holes, and low visibility conditions that can make everything you do a bit harder. Winter is one of those times when you definitely should consider wearing extra ANSI-rated reflective gear.
Overall, winter weather is the most unforgiving and dangerous when it comes to work. It's hard on your body, hard on your mind due to the intensity of attention required, and it's hard on equipment, materials, and tools. Be sure to get good rest during the winter months, eat nutritional meals for the energy you'll need, and above all stay warm. If you plan accordingly, dress properly, maintain awareness and move cautiously, you'll have a productive and safe winter working season.

Workplace Safety is NOT a Priority

We know that safety isn't the most exciting or amazing thing on earth, but it IS a priority. Isn't it? The truth is, most of the time safety is not a priority, and this worries us. Safety is often put on the backburner, especially when the "risk" seems low. Taking certain steps for safety while avoiding or ignoring others is contradictory to the whole purpose of safety, and it's a genuine cause for concern.


Take a look at this innovative, highly informative and humorous video that explains the most typical reality of workplace safety. You just might see things from a different perspective. After all, workplace safety is NOT a priority!




How Dangerous is YOUR Job?

how dangerous is your jobHow dangerous is your job? It's hard to tell exactly as many factors come into play when creating statistics but there's always a pattern that exists. Over recent years, it's clear that some industries and careers tend to be more dangerous than others.

Currently, the average rate of fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers is about 3.5. Respectively, here are the general top 10 occupations with the highest rates of fatality:

• Fishers and related fishing workers: 116.0
• Logging workers: 91.9
• Aircraft pilots and flight engineers: 70.6
• Farmers and ranchers: 41.4
• Mining machine operators: 38.7
• Roofers: 32.4
• Refuse and recyclable material collectors: 29.8
• Driver/sales workers and truck drivers: 21.8
• Industrial machinery installation, repair and maintenance workers: 20.3, and
• Police and sheriff’s patrol officers: 18.0.

The top industry sectors with fatalities are:
• Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting: 26.8
• Mining: 19.8, and
• Transportation and warehousing: 13.1.

The percentage of worker fatalities by age:
• Under 16: < 0.5%
• 16-17: < 0.5%
• 18-19: 1%
• 20-24: 5%
• 25-34: 17%
• 35-44: 19%
• 45-54: 25%
• 55-64: 20%, and
• 65 and older: 12%.

BLS reported there were 4,547 workplace fatalities in 2010. The highest number of fatalities by industry are as follows:
• Trade, transportation and utilities: 1,141
• Natural resources and mining: 768
• Construction: 751
• Professional and business services: 356, and
• Manufacturing: 320.

Learn more about workplace fatalities at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Website. Stay safe out there and always remember to do things properly - don't take shortcuts that pose a hazard to your (or other's) health or well-being.

Workplace Safety: Eye Protection & 90% Injury Preventability

workplace safety eye protectionThere's a lot of talk about workplace safety, but we find that one of the most overlooked aspects of personal protection on job sites is eye protection. Protecting your eyes at work is commonplace for welders and machinists, but there are hundreds of other occupations where eye injury is a real risk that often goes unacknowledged or ignored.
If you're working with any of the following materials or tools, it's critical that you think twice about protecting your eyes:
• Liquid Chemicals
• Powdered Chemicals
• Caustic Substances
• Grinding/Cutting Tools
• Granular Products or Materials
• High Heat or Flammable Materials
• Machines with Small Moving Parts
• Airborne or Super-Lightweight Materials
• Solvents and Cleaners
• Heavy Machinery
• Falling, Crumbling or Easily Breakable Materials/Products
• Pressurized Products/Equipment/Materials
• Sharp Objects or Sharp Moving Parts
• Fibrous Materials or Products
• Adhesives
• Intense Light
While the list may not be complete, it can provide some very real insight into the many ways your eyes can be harmed, by both accidents and/or long-term exposure.
If there's any chance of something splashing, sparking, exploding, slivering, shattering, bursting, or blowing into your eyes, you need to utilize some sort of eye protection. Whether it's googles, safety glasses or a safety shield, it might prevent you from losing your vision or suffering irreversible damage that can be debilitating, painful and costly.
According to the CDC, here are over 2,000 work-related eye injuries each day that require medical treatment in the US. ABout a third, or 650+ of those require emergency room visits.
Even when wearing eye protection, studies have shown that 40% of these eye injuries occur when people are wearing eye protection - but wearing the improper type or wearing them wrong way was a major factor. While certain eye injuries can happen even when eye protection is properly utilized, the majority of injuries in which eye protection was being used is due to safety glasses without side shields.
Not surprisingly, almost 70% of all accidents involving eye injury occur from flying or falling objects, sparks and debris striking the eye. Of the injured workers themselves, 3/5 of them estimate that the particle causing the damage was smaller than a pinhead and traveling faster than an object that had been thrown. This valuable insight, along with other statistics tells us that tiny, fast moving particles are the most common cause of eye injuries. There are many ways this can occur, from a simple gust of wind to piece of aluminum dust being thrown up by a sander or cutting tool.
Accidents happen, that why they're called accidents. However, eye injuries are one of the only injuries that experts claim to be 90% avoidable.
We often take our eyes for granted, but we need to make a better effort to expect the unexpected. It might take some getting used to and it may be a minor annoyance, but improving your use of eye protection could end up saving your sight and your career. Life is too short to suffer avoidable accidents, and it only makes sense to protect your eyes from common workplace hazards.
Learn more about eye protection from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the CDC's Eye Safety Resources & Information page. Stay safe out there!

Workplace Safety: Working in Heavy Traffic

workplace safety working in heavy trafficWe live in a busy world. While it might be ideal to keep all job sites free of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, that's not always possible. More often than not, workers who build and repair roads, bridges, sewer & water lines, power lines, phone lines, and a variety of other job tasks are required to work in the immediate vicinity of heavy and often dangerous traffic. Whether it's a side road in a suburban area or a busy interstate highway during rush hour, the hazards of the job are greatly magnified when working near moving vehicles.
Many companies offer safety training for those working in close proximity to moving traffic, but in most cases you're just required to wear your high visibility safety gear and told to "look out for traffic". Of course both mobile and stationary barriers are often used to separate work sites from the highway, but this isn't always the case. Sometimes workers have little to no real protection from fast moving vehicle traffic, leaving a good operation of their safety up to the motorists themselves.
To reduce the chances of an accident, injury or death when working in heavy traffic, it's important to practice the following:
Be aware of your surroundings: Know what's in front of you and behind you at all times. When working in close proximity to moving traffic, always be aware of which direction the traffic is heading, how much buffer space exists between you and the road, and what type of barriers are used. Don't forget that large trucks, mobile homes, tractor trailers take up more space and often make a closer approach to your workspace than normal passenger vehicles. Always be sure that hoses, ropes, power cords and similar objects are far enough from the roadway as to not be sucked in by wind or the draft of passing vehicles.
Expect the Unexpected: A lot of the time, you only have so much control over your safety. The rest of it is up to the passing motorists. This is the reason that work zones have reduced speed limits which reduce the chances of high-speed accidents. At any given moment, a driver who may not be paying attention could veer or the roadway heading in your direction. Also, rising/setting sun, fog, and low-visibility caused by bad weather or night time conditions can further hamper motorist's ability to see. Likewise, tires can blow out and parts can fall from vehicles or tractor trailers, acting as deadly projectiles that can easily cause bodily harm or death.
Go Prepared: Always be sure you're wearing the proper ANSI compliant high visibility garments. One great idea for working in or around traffic is to use a breakaway safety vest. These safety vests utilize velcro-style breakaway points which will easily rip apart with enough force. If your breakaway vest or jacket is caught on a passing vehicle, the garment will separate instead of dragging you along with it. In either case, wear as much reflective apparel as possible to ensure motorists can see you. Safety glasses should also be worn in close proximity to traffic because debris such as sand and rocks can quickly become airborne and present a hazard.
The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration has an abundance of information in regards to highway, work zone, and traffic-related safety. You can visit their website HERE to learn more about highway safety. You can also view their Workzone Hazards Awareness resources to learn more tips on working safely in area with vehicle traffic.

Workplace Safety: Preventing Hearing Damage

workplace safety preventing hearing lossOne of the often-overlooked dangers of the workplace is hearing damage. Sometimes people ignore the danger of hearing damage and other times people don't seem to realize it poses a legitimate threat. The truth is that hearing damage is very real, and anyone working in an environment with excessive noise is subject to suffering some sort of hearing loss.
The reality of the situation is often surprising to some people. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to operate a jack-hammer 10 hours a day to damage your hearing. Often times, people suffer permanent hearing damage and/or loss from working in an environment that might not seem dangerously loud. If the sound is repetitive or constant, it doesn't have to be at an extremely high decibel to do damage. Many industrial workers, equipment operators, and processing plant employees have suffered problems like ringing ears, decreased hearing sensitivity, mild to intermediate hearing loss from nothing other than spending so much time in their work environment near mid-level noise intensity. Others have suffered very serious ringing of the ears and massive hearing loss due to being used to the sound intensity and/or failure to utilize hearing protection.
So, how do you minimize hearing damage? It's rather simple - hearing protection is the single most important factor. If you're going to be working near excessive noise for specific tasks, be sure to have proper protection available at all times. It's easy to use and then remove the protection as needed when the sound intensity decreases or the tasks requiring hearing protection are complete. If you're working in a medium-noise facility where long-term exposure is a concern, consider wearing disposable ear plugs. They can be worn in a loose fashion that helps protect your ears by muffling loud noises while still making it possible to hear and communicate with others.
Remember, your ears don't have to hurt for noise to hurt your ears. Too many people disregard the importance of hearing protection while ignoring the possibilities of hearing damage because they assume that if sound levels aren't hurting their ears then it's okay. It can take quite some time for hearing damage to develop or show symptoms, but it can also happen instantaneously in the right environment. Protect your ears, be safe, and keep hearing protection at your disposal.

4 Summer Workplace Safety Tips for Keeping Cool on the Job

workplace safety tips for keeping coolJune is just around the corner, and temperatures are beginning to heat up. Before you know it, we'll be in the dog days of summer with a great tan and long hours of daylight. While the summer is a beautiful and productive time for working outdoors, it can also be dangerous on extremely hot days. The best thing to do is to go to work prepared and understand your limits for exertion. Below are some tips to help you keep cool, avoid heat stroke, and maintain comfort throughout the day.

Dress Accordingly

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it's not always so simple. If we took a survey of road workers, we're pretty sure that most of them would absolutely love to show up to work with a t-shirt and shorts. However, due to their work environment (i.e. heavy equipment, rough terrain, hot asphalt and an array of grinding and cutting equipment) it's not safe or realistic to do so. The best option is to purchase proper garments that provide the necessary level of safety while helping to reduce heat build-up. Mesh safety shirts (instead of safety vests worn over a shirt), moisture-wicking headwear or specialty cooling gear such as the EZ-Cool Phase Change Cooling Vest will make your life much, much easier. Avoid dark colors, unnecessary layers and fabrics that don't breathe well. If you can't avoid light clothing due to heavy protective gear, you'll definitely need to invest in some sort of cooling technology. While it might be expensive, it's worth the price to avoid health issues and maintain a comfortable undergarment environment.

Pace Yourself

It's easy for the body to heat up rapidly under extreme temperatures, sometimes to the point where we cannot cool ourselves quick enough. Be wary of overexertion and know your personal limits. Even the most physically fit can suffer sudden heat-related issues with little to no warning under the right circumstance. You might find that you're blood is pumping heavily, your heart is beating rapidly and you're breathing heavily - which is fine under normal environments. But couple those with temperatures in the upper 90s or higher and it's a recipe for disaster. Sometimes, we can't perspire quick enough or lack sufficient fluids to maintain our pace and before we know it we find ourselves overwhelmed and in danger of heat stroke. It's best to rest as needed and refrain from pushing yourself in extreme temperatures.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Did we mention that you should hydrate? We actually can't say this enough. While you probably start your day with a cup of coffee, you'd be smart to follow it with a sufficient amount of water. Starting out your day without proper hydration can be a recipe for disaster halfway through the day. By the time you begin to sweat heavily, there won't be enough water in your system to maintain proper cooling. Even if you begin to over hydrate, you won't be able to replenish yourself to the proper level without some sort of bloating, fatigue, or increased body temperature. Be sure to have plenty of hydrating fluids available on the job and sip it regularly. One great idea is to freeze a gallon bottle of water in your freezer overnight and take it with you to work. As long as it's kept protected from the sun, you'll have ice cold water for hours on end. Another option is to invest in a hydration system such as the Ergodyne Low Profile Hydration Pack. Water makes up a large part of our bodies and it's crucial to keep proper levels.

Rest as Needed and Seek Shade

When it's 100+ degrees, there's really no safe way to work outside. If you're not presenting yourself to the risk of sunburn, surely you're exposing yourself to temperatures where the human body has a tough time performing at it's best. In combination with setting a proper pace, it's highly important to rest at specific intervals. If you're digging holes in direct sunlight, set yourself to a 3 hole maximum before seeking a short break. Of course, this will depend on the the size of the holes, but we're just trying to give a basic example. When resting, locking your fingers above your head creates minor expansion in the lungs, allowing you to process as much air as possible. This can help you cool at a quicker rate. While it's difficult to give perfect examples because of different tasks, different environments and varying degrees of exertion required on a given job, it's safe to say that you need to listen to your body. If you're heating up or if you need to catch your breath, than take a break and hydrate until your body says you're okay to continue. If the job site is large with very little or no cover from the sun, consider utilizing a portable shade tent for a break & hydration area.
There you have it! Dress accordingly, stay hydrated, pace yourself and break regularly. You might want to organize a specific plan with your boss, employees or co-workers for handling the extreme heat. Nobody wants to suffer from heat stress or encounter heat stroke. The best kind of worker is a productive worker and while the heat makes it difficult, there are several ways to organize and optimize for productivity during extremely hot weather.

Uptick in Convictions & Prison Sentences for Work Related Employee Deaths

workplace safety convictionsWhile fines, penalties and even restrictions on operations have been the common consequences of work-related injuries and deaths in the US, there has been a rather interesting but not surprising new trend in the courts. In the last 2 years alone, we've seen a large increase in the convictions of CEOs, supervisors, and managers which entail prison sentences in regards to cases involving worker deaths.
Although deaths can occur from a worker's failure to follow safety procedure or the use of faulty or malfunctioning equipment, it's just as possible that higher-ups could be responsible for willful neglect by providing inadequate safety training, equipment or work environments.
Just this week, Donald Blankenship, a rather prominent (former) CEO of one of the larger West Virginia coal companies Massey Energy, was convicted of violating federal safety standards in relation to an explosion that caused the each of 29 miners in 2010. While several other charges were surprisingly dismissed, he still faces up to one year in prison and is scheduled for sentencing. While facts surrounding the case are few, and while the courts prosecuted him without a single witness testimony, it could be said that it's a rather light conviction concerning the circumstances.
There is still, however, a number of recent cases where very severe sentences have been handed down, such as:
- Stewart Parnell who once oversaw Peanut Corporation of America, who was convicted on federal conspiracy charges in September 2014 and sentenced to 28 years in prison for charges related to a salmonella outbreak that killed 9 and sickened hundreds.
- Richard Liu, the owner of Alameda County Construction Company and his project manager Dan Luo were both convicted to 2 years in prison for the death of a worker who was crushed by a wall of dirt after working on a job site that had been red-tagged by city inspectors after heavy rains.
- Brent Weidman, owner of an arizona-based sewer & water company was convicted of negligent homicide for the deaths of two workers who were overcome and killed by toxic gasses in an underground sewage tank.
- Safety manager Saul Florez and company director Angel Rodriguez of Bumble Bee Tuna Company were charged earlier this year with three felony counts each of Occupational Safety & Health Administration violation causing death to a worker after a man was killed in an oven.
- John Wilkes, owner of a Florida tree service company was sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this year for aggravated manslaughter after a 14 year-old employee fell 71 feet do his death.
And that isn't the whole of it either, there are several more cases currently in process and/or unmentioned where justice is being served and the excuse of "it was an accident" just isn't sufficient enough and criminal charges are brought forth. While many people who are deserving of charges in relation to worker deaths might not even be charged or considered of any wrong doing, it's becoming clear that death is not an okay side-effect of doing business, and that paying out fines to OSHA and paying lawsuits to families is not a sufficient punishment for neglect resulting in death.
If you're in a managerial position or the owner of a company where hazardous environments are an everyday occurrence of business, it's in your best interests, as well as the interests of your employees and their families, to do your very best to ensure safe working conditions. Cutting corners to save a few dollars might leave you sitting in a room with 4 corners for a very, very long time. Please, operate your business safely and treat your employees as if they were members of your own family. There is no situation where a little bit of time or money is worth a persons life. Be safe out there!

5 Steps For Creating A Safe Workplace

5 steps for creating a safe workplaceWe spend a lot of our time working, often much more than we'd like to. In fact, it's estimated that the average American spends a solid 11 years worth of time at work throughout their lifetime. With so much time spent, it's a good idea to do things as efficient as possible and a big part of that means working safely.
Whether you're an employee, manager or business owner, you should take the initiative to provide and maintain a safe working environment. Remember, this doesn't only apply to dangerous jobs or those more likely to be hazardous; it applies to any and all industries. Safety awareness helps avoid accidents, injury, death, and the risk of disastrous consequences from failure to practice proper safety procedure. Here are 5 steps that you can use to create a safer, more efficient workplace.

Know Your Hazards & Have a Plan

It doesn't matter whether you're working in a steel mill or a grocery store, there's always going to be safety hazards present. From heavy equipment and machinery to dangerous chemicals, working at heights, and avoiding slip & falls, it's best to be cautious of what could go wrong. If you're working in an office, you might think that nothing bad could happen, but does everyone know where the fire extinguisher is? Is everyone in the office aware of the circuit breaker's location in the event that an electrical fire started? Is there a standard procedure to follow if your business were to get robbed at gunpoint? There's a lot to consider and if you're not aware, informed and prepared when something happens, it could put yourself or others in harm's way.

Ask Everyone To Participate

If you're serious about safety, and I mean truly serious, than encourage your employees or co-workers to speak up. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news, looked down upon or afraid of retaliation or termination for coming forward about possible safety issues. In fact, that's exactly how many people feel they'll be perceived if they spoke up about their concerns, and this can be problematic. Encourage honestly and straightforward discussion when it comes to safety in the workplace. Make it clear that everyone is working together and if someone has a concern, they should voice it to the proper personnel. Often times there are serious safety hazards which go unmentioned and later cause serious harm or even death, solely because people are afraid to be seen as "the complaining employee" or "a threat to profits". Make it clear that safety is a priority in the operation of your workplace and ask that any and all concerns be voiced so they can be properly addressed.

Promote Group Safety

While some workers might take safety more seriously than others, it's important to stress that everyone is working as a team. Employees should understand that their own decisions in the workplace can directly or indirectly affect the safety of others. If one person cuts corners, it might raise the risk of an accident for everyone else and that's not fair. Promote group safety by asking everyone to lookout for one another in an non-invasive fashion. If everyone is responsible for the safety of others just as much as they're responsible for their own safety, it creates a reciprocal effect which results a safer working environment for everyone. When the safe way is the only way that work is carried out, it lowers the risk of accidents. Make it clear that employees are paid for their time and that safety needs to come first in all tasks and duties. Never criticize employees or co-workers for taking the extra time to complete a task safely - instead, encourage and praise it!

Provide The Proper Tools and Training

Performing hazardous tasks and duties can be extra dangerous without the proper training, tools and materials. Whatever may be needed to complete a job properly and safely should always be provided and/or required. That means proper training, proper equipment, proper maintenance, etc.. Sending your employees up on a broken ladder is no different than gambling but instead of gambling with your own money, you're gambling with the well being of another person. People who aren't properly trained cannot possibly be aware of the potential hazards that might exist, and this is often the root cause of many workplace injuries and deaths. Make sure the risks are clear, and that the proper steps are always taken to prevent them.

Offer Rewards for Good Safety Practice

The incentive doesn't have to be huge, but one easy way to help ensure proper safety practices is by offering a reward. Ideally, this works best when used as a group reward, because it puts each individual as a responsible party in the overall effort to meet a goal. The goals and rewards will depend on the work environment and job duties, but consider a quarterly reward that is only awarded when management doesn't see a single instance of unsafe practices on the job. If a single individual cuts corners or utilizes a less-than-safe method of completing a task, the reward is off for everyone. This can really push people to give their 110% effort at working as safe as possible. You'd be surprised how far a quarterly paid day off, company dinner or cash bonus can really go. It's much less of a price to pay than an injury or accident, and it promotes good safety ethics as a habit.
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