Every workplace presents its own unique hazards. Many people spend half of their waking hours at work, a huge window of opportunity for injury. Almost 3 million workers sustained a workplace injury or illness and over 4,800 died in workplace accidents in 2014, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers must provide safe working conditions, but it is equally important that workers to do their part to promote safety and avoid unnecessary risk of harm. Below are several simple but effective workplace injury prevention tips. For specific legal questions about workplace injuries or claims, contact us to speak to an experienced workplace injury lawyer at Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault and request a free consultation: 419-843-6663.
Tip #1: Get proper training and follow best practice Workplace Injury Prevention Tips
First things first: make sure you receive adequate training for the job. Inexperience and poor safety training is a surefire recipe for injury. Make sure you are competent and properly qualified for your job and that you fully understand your job duties. If you are unfamiliar with a task, project, piece of equipment, etc., ask your supervisor for direction.
Your employer is responsible for providing you with safety training specific to your job. This might mean safety education classes, orientation, injury and illness prevention programs, hands-on training, and/or safety manuals. If you notice a gap in workplace safety protocols, bring it up to your employer.
Tip #2: Use proper safety gear and equipment.
Protective gear is one of the simplest and yet often neglected things that can greatly reduce the risks for workplace injuries. Utilizing safety gear is just plain smart — and certain personal protective equipment (PPE) is actually a legal requirement.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires safety equipment to reduce workers’ exposure to hazards. PPE may include items such as:
- Safety glasses
- Safety shoes
- Hard hats
- Protective clothing, e.g., overalls and vests
Your employer is responsible for explaining the policies for protective gear and equipment, and you are responsible for using/wearing it.
“Employers are also required to train each worker required to use personal protective equipment to know when it is necessary; what kind is necessary; how to properly put it on, adjust, wear and take it off; the limitations of the equipment; [and] proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the equipment,” OHSA explains.
Tip #3: Keep your work area clean.
Dirty, messy, and unorganized work environments are a main contributor to workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. Electrical cords and mislaid equipment or debris are fire hazards as well as a major contributor to trips and falls. Spilled oils and liquids can also lead to a serious slip and fall.
Keeping your work station clean, organized, and clutter-free will not only enable you to do your job better, but it will also reduce your risk of a potentially serious accident.
Similarly, you also want to make sure your work area has proper ventilation. Indoor air pollution in the workplace is not uncommon. Chemical exposure, dust, and other types of indoor pollution can damage the eyes, sinuses, throat, and skin.
Your employer should have workplace cleanliness standards and regular cleaning practices in place.
The CCOHS explains, “[Workplace] housekeeping order is ‘maintained’ not achieved.’ Cleaning and organization must be done regularly, not just at the end of the shift… A good housekeeping program identifies and assigns responsibilities for the following:
- clean up during the shift
- day-to-day cleanup
- waste disposal
- removal of unused materials
- inspection to ensure cleanup is complete.”
Tip #4: Reduce workplace stress.
The workplace can be extremely stressful, no doubt. Long hours, hazardous conditions, strained coworker dynamics, infrequent breaks, job insecurity, and chaotic work environments can cause a substantial amount of stress.
While you cannot control all of your stressors, it is important to eliminate those that you can and find healthy ways to manage those you cannot. Your health and safety could depend on it. Stress is related a numerous health issues. For example, workers with high levels of job stress are 68 percent more at risk for heart disease, reports the National Safety Council.
To reduce workplace stress, you can:
- Take short, frequent breaks to avoid mental burn out. This will also give you a chance to stretch and move around to help prevent musculoskeletal injuries that are common with repetitive use.
- Only take on the amount of work or hours you can handle. Avoid the temptation to bite off more than you can chew.
- Avoid engaging with negative coworkers. Start creating a strong and positive social network with other workers.
- Take it easy on yourself. You are not perfect — nobody is. Look at work-related mistakes and setbacks as opportunities, not failures.
Tip #5: Report unsafe conditions.
If you notice an unsafe condition, notify your supervisor or management. You need to informed them so they can address the hazard. If your supervisor ignores your concerns, then you can report the issue to the OHSA. You can file a complaint in one of three ways:
- Calling 1-800-321-OSHA
- Submitting an eComplaint Form
- Mailing a complaint form to your regional OSHA area office
The OHSA will investigate any complaints of serious hazards or safety violations. Some of the most common violations include lack of fall protection, inadequate chemical hazard training, improper scaffolding, lack of established respiratory protection program, and using defective or unsuitable ladders.
Do not continue to work in conditions you know are extremely unsafe. Workers do not need to be worried about retaliation if they file a complaint. The agency assures: “Complaints from workers or their representatives are taken seriously by OSHA. OSHA will keep your information confidential.”
Tip #6: Continually increase your industry safety savvy.
Workplace safety is not a one-time task; it is something you need to practice on a routine basis. Stay up-to-date on your particular industry’s safety standards and implement them at work.
There are a lot of resources out there that can help. You can go to industry seminars and conferences, read the latest copy of the NSC’s Safety + Health periodical and other trade journals, and check out some of the OHSA’s etools and prevention videos.
Follow these best practice Work Injury Prevention Tips for creating the safest work environment for yourself and your co-workers. You can also check out our library for more safety topics.