Safety is a serious concern in the workforce. As of 2022, America sees one employee death roughly every 90 minutes, resulting in around 5,000 deaths a year. All these deaths, though tragic, are preventable by following OSHA safety procedures.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an organization devoted to ensuring the safety of American employees. It writes laws, enforces safe practices, and offers training on the proper procedures for countless tasks. OSHA understands the hazards employees in every industry face and knows how to prevent them.
A major cause of workplace injuries is a lack of caution. Most people have heard stories of frightening injuries that occur at work, but deep down, they can’t see something like that ever happening to themselves. They see a fatal injury as unlikely and stop being cautious as a result. This mentality makes a fatal injury far more likely and ends up being the cause of most deaths in the workplace.
At the end of the day, everybody wants to be safe at work. Whether you’re an employee or an employer, you only want to see yourself and your peers return home safely each night. It’s difficult to guarantee safety, as accidents do occur. But there are ways you can reduce the likelihood of an injury. In this article, we’ll be discussing 10 important ways to keep yourself and your coworkers safe during the job.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Most environments are filled with hazards. Some are obvious, but many are hidden and unexpected. Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to clothing or equipment used to protect against seen and unseen hazards.
Hazards you wouldn’t expect might include cuts, abrasions, or crushed fingers. Useful PPE, in this case, might refer to thick clothing or plated gloves that can prevent these types of accidents.
Other forms of PPE are specifically required while performing a task. For example, an employee working around steep ledges should always wear proper fall protection like a harness and a proper strap.
When choosing the right PPE for your job, there are five things to keep in mind:
- If I come in contact with chemicals, how fast will they pass through the material?
- As it grows old, will it withstand softening, hardening, swelling, or shrinking?
- Would something sharp penetrate this equipment easily? Will it keep dangerous things out?
- Will it last?
- Will it interfere with your movement and make your job difficult?
Study and Gain Experience
Being able to identify and mitigate hazards is an important skill to have. OSHA refers to this as being a competent person. To develop these traits, it’s important to:
- Spend time and build expertise in your industry
- Ask questions and gain wisdom from those who have been there longer
- Study up on the equipment you work with, and learn the hazards you may deal with
- Read reports of past employee injuries, and find ways to prevent them from reoccurring
- Learn and improve
It’s important to remember that gaining experience doesn’t mean being reckless or performing tasks you’re unqualified for. People who attempt to gain experience through the “trial and error” method risk hurting themselves or others. Mistakes are common and important to the learning process. However, every task you do should be done cautiously with guidance or supervision. Performing a job with proper guidance allows you to gain needed experience in a way that’s safe and productive.
As you work, it’s also important to study the equipment and safety procedures associated with the job. For example, if you’ll be operating vehicles, it may be a good idea to read the operator’s manual to become familiar with your vehicle.
Communicate About Hazards
Many times when someone notices unsafe behavior or working conditions, it’s easy for them to say nothing and expect the problem to resolve itself. When a hazard presents itself, you should always assume responsibility and report the issue.
That’s not to say you should try to solve problems outside your jurisdiction or try to deal with issues you don’t know how to solve. But at the very least, find someone who knows how to nullify the hazard and communicate it to them. Safety is a team effort, and everyone should be working towards ensuring a safe environment for themselves and their peers.
Improve Your Situational Awareness
Situational awareness refers to your ability to be alert. It means being aware of the things happening around you, knowing where you are, where you’re supposed to be, and identifying the potential threats in the area.
Following safety rules is critical in maintaining a safe environment. However, following the rules can only do so much if you’re not also aware of your surroundings and actively preventing dangerous situations.
Receive Proper Safety Training
Safety training, if done properly, is the best way to prevent workplace hazards. It’s important for employers to provide thorough training to new employees that covers the laws and practices outlined by OSHA. A third party safety training provider such as Safety Provisions, Inc. is a great option to help with this). It’s also important for seasoned employees to receive refresher courses at least once every few years.
OSHA doesn’t give many specifics on who gives the training. What they care about most is the content that’s being taught. Safety Provision’s Online training courses are an easy way for employees to learn about certain areas they’ll be working in and presents them with all the information OSHA needs them to know.
Another good option might be to hire an onsite trainer– someone who comes to your place of work and has extensive knowledge on the chosen topic. Their visits usually include a safety presentation, a student handbook, case studies, and ends with a test to be sure the lesson was understood. In other cases, if an employer wanted to train their employees themselves, there are also training kits that include everything needed to provide a thorough and memorable training experience.
Don’t Over-Exert Yourself
Overexertion can apply to both physical and mental work. Oftentimes someone, in an effort to showcase their high work ethic, might take on tasks they’re incapable of or skip breaks to keep working. This behavior can lead to a variety of accidents such as exhaustion, burnout, musculoskeletal discomfort, or even injury during physical tasks.
In most states, employees receive break time, which is protected by law. Breaks aren’t just a courtesy given as a reward for hard work, but a tool to allow you to work at maximum efficiency. Employees should utilize breaks as a time to rest their mind and prevent overexertion, so they can be at peak performance while on the job.
Make Friends With Your Peers
Workplace accidents commonly occur when an employee is alone and unaccounted for. Oftentimes, an accident resulting in death will occur and no one will even know it happened until the employee is found hours after the incident. By making friends and keeping each other accountable in the workplace, you create a safety net. You keep an eye on one another and help keep each other safe while on the job. Making friends is both a way to keep you safe, and make work more enjoyable.
Pre-Shift Safety Meetings
When working in a hazardous environment, pre-shift safety meetings are critical for ensuring a safe day at work. Before starting a shift, employees should gather as a team and discuss:
- The tasks that need to be accomplished that day
- Possible risks associated with the task
- Emergency plans to deal with the risk
It’s important to be reminded frequently of safety procedures and company rules. Doing so helps commit them to memory and makes them a regular part of your routine.
Distractions can be deadly, especially when working with dangerous equipment. The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. So if your attention is divided, it becomes harder to do a job safely. Do all that you can to eliminate distractions and focus on the task at hand. As previously mentioned, utilize breaks to allow your mind to concentrate on safely fulfilling your duties.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Some industries have a great deal of specific hazards, such as construction or maritime, that require in-depth training on how to handle common emergencies. However, there are other hazards and emergencies that can present themselves regardless of where you work. Some of these may include
- Medical Emergencies
- Sexual Harassment
- Active shooters
These situations aren’t common, but they do occur more often than one might think. Knowing how to act in these situations can help save lives, so it’s important for companies to create an emergency action plan (EAP). Gather as a company, and discuss what to do in these instances. It might be beneficial for employers to enroll the company in safety courses such as first-aid and CPR, offered by Safety Provisions.