How to Promote Employee Safety in the Workplace
Welcome to Safe Friday, this week we’re going to cover employee safety. On the job safety is a program of proactive participation between employers, supervisors, and employees; safety is everyone’s business. “Looking out for the other guy”, the foundation of job safety, is the ability to exercise responsibility, good judgment, and accountability, and being able to depend on your co-workers and the company to exercise the same ability. In the workplace you are seldom alone.
The workplace is often a crowded place with workers involved in seemingly unrelated activities. However, supervisors, and well-trained employees know work is being done in a well-coordinated and orderly manner, and can readily identify unsafe situations, conditions or acts. Everyone needs to be involved in company safety.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to follow all employee safety rules. Let’s review the key elements of a proper safety and health program:
- Management commitment: Managers are committed to making the program work
- Hazard identification and control: Know how to identify and control hazards
- Accountability: All employees are responsible for following safe work practices
- Incident and accident investigations: Know how to investigate near-miss incidents and accidents
- Employee involvement: Be involved in our safety program
- Training: Make sure everyone is trained in safe work practices
- Periodic evaluation of the program: Managers must review the program regularly
These seven elements together make workplace safety and health programs successful. We call them elements, but we could have called them components, ingredients, or puzzle pieces. When you put them all together, you have achieved a successful program.
It’s your responsibility to follow your company’s safety program and to conduct yourselves in a safe manner. It’s also your responsibility to hold your co-workers accountable:
- Let your co-workers, or anyone who may be endangered on the job, know of any hazards you know of, or believe to exist
- Let your co-worker or anyone in the workplace know if you think they’re committing an unsafe act or work practice
- Report all hazards to a supervisor or safety committee member promptly
- Keep your tools and equipment working properly; follow all maintenance schedules and safe work procedures
- Be prepared for emergencies, know what to do when something goes wrong
- Know what workplace hazards could hurt you, and know how to eliminate or control them
- Actively participate in the training of new workers and make sure they understand the safe work procedures
- If you’re not sure of the right or safe way to do a job or task, ask your supervisor, or make it your responsibility to learn the proper way
No one wants to see a co-worker hurt on the job. It’s everyone’s responsibility to look out for themselves, the other guy and the company.
Focusing on Employee Training
Federal law requires that all workers be trained in the safe methods of performing their jobs. Which means, everyone needs to know about the workplace hazards they can be exposed to, how to recognize them, and how to control their exposure to them. Being aware of potential hazards, as well as knowing how to control them, is critical to maintaining a safe and healthful work environment and preventing injuries. The best way to gain this knowledge is through education and training.
Why Education and Training?
- Education teaches why safe practices and procedures are important; education affects attitudes about safety, and attitudes affect behavior
- Training, on the other hand, improves the skills you need to work safely. You need to know:
- The safety and health rules
- How to identify worksite hazards
- Safe work procedures
- What to do in emergencies
- New hire orientations, periodic safety and health training, and emergency drills build this knowledge
- A written safety-training program enforces the educational aspects of our training and demonstrates our company’s commitment to safety
- Makes you aware of job hazards
- Teaches you how to perform jobs safely
- Promotes two way communication
- Encourages safety suggestions
- Creates interest in the safety program
- Fulfills OSHA requirements
Four Workplace Safety and Health Examples
- You’ll know what workplace hazards you can be exposed to
- You will know how to control or eliminate your exposure to workplace hazards
- You’ll know and understand the OSHA regulations that apply to your job
- Everyone understands their safety and health responsibilities
Putting training information in writing has benefits more valuable than just avoiding an OSHA citation. Putting it in writing has value in legal proceedings, in employment matters, in dealings with other government agencies and recording your progress toward achieving a safe, healthful workplace.
The quality and level of training may become an issue in contested legal cases where a defense of unpreventable employee misconduct is raised. Under case law, a company can successfully defend against an otherwise valid citation by proving that all feasible steps were taken to avoid the occurrence of the hazard, and that actions of the worker involved in the violation were a departure from a uniformly and effectively enforced work rule that the workers had either actual or constructive knowledge. Documenting your safety training (putting it in writing) may be the company’s only proof of compliance with OSHA requirements, or that the worker was actually trained in the area in contention.
Supervisors and managers also need education and training to help them in their leadership roles and to enhance their skills in identifying and controlling hazards.
Employee Safety Inside the Office
Most office safety issues involve ergonomic and environmental situations such as ventilation, temperature and humidity, lighting, workstation design/fatigue control, noise, housekeeping and sanitation. Today we’ll look at some of these topics in greater detail.
This helps control fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders, or MSD’s.
- It’s important to understand common MSD’s, and their signs and symptoms
- To reduce MSD hazards, feasible engineering, work practice or administrative controls must be used
- Workstations should be designed to minimize excessive bending and twisting at the waist, reaching above your shoulder, and constant muscle strain. Cushioned floor mats should be provided if you’re required to stand for long periods
- Workstations and equipment should be adjustable so that you’re in a comfortable working posture and make occasional changes in posture while working at a video display terminal
Must be properly maintained to avoid shock.
- All cord and cable connections, receptacles, and other electrical devices must be intact and secure
- All disconnecting switches and circuit breakers must be labeled to indicate their purpose
- Circuit breakers accessible to workers must be protected from physical damage and located away from ignitable material
Stairs and Stairways
Must be kept free of obstacles.
- Stair and handrails must be installed on all stairways having four or more steps
- All stairways must be at least 22 inches wide, and have at least 7 feet of overhead clearance
- Stairway angles at least 30 degrees and no more than 50 degrees
- Step risers on stairs must be the same size from top to bottom, with the spacing no more than 9.5 inches
- Steps on stairs and stairways should be designed or provided with a surface that renders them slip resistant
- Barriers and warnings must be provided where stairs exit into an area where vehicles may be operating
Indoor Air Quality
An adequate clean fresh air supply must be maintained.
- Spaces containing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems must be clean and dry. Don’t store cleaning and maintenance supplies in an HVAC room
- HVAC equipment must be kept free of oil, water, and refrigerant leaks, or signs of other inadequate maintenance
- Hazardous substances must be used and stored so that vapors can’t escape into the air
- Walls, ceilings and floors must be kept free of signs of mold or moisture damage
- HVAC air filters must be cleaned or changed frequently according to manufacturer’s specifications
General Housekeeping and Sanitation
Keep work areas free of hazards that could cause slips, trips and falls.
- All work areas and restroom facilities must be kept clean, sanitary, orderly and adequately lit
- Spilled materials or liquids must be cleaned up immediately
- Work surfaces must be kept dry or made slip-resistant
- When surfaces are wet from mopping or spills, they must be clearly marked
- Regular cleaning schedules must be maintained to avoid accumulation of dust and other contaminants
Every successful company has a smooth-running office. In order to create and maintain a productive office environment, everyone must do their part to keep it safe and healthy.
Beginning & Ending with Safety
The goal of employee safety is to begin the day and end the day safely, so our consideration of safety must transition from the beginning to the end of a job. Our ideas of safety on the job must encompass every aspect of preparation for the day’s work, through and extending beyond completion of the job. Safety must be your first thought as you drive to work to begin the day’s work, and it needs to be on your mind as you leave and drive home at the end of the day.
- What is my best, safest route to work or the job-site? Is my vehicle properly maintained and safe to drive?
- Do I have all the equipment I will need to do the job safely?
- What methods will be used at the job-site today to complete the work? What will be required to do the job safely?
- What PPE or clothing is needed to accomplish the work safely? Be sure to inspect all personal protective equipment and clothing for defects prior to use
- What tools are necessary to complete the day’s task? Are the personnel who will be using the tools or equipment properly trained to do the work safely?
- Do these tools or equipment require special training or certification? Who has received that special training or certification?
- Be sure to inspect all tools and equipment prior to use. If defects are found have them repaired or replaced prior to use
- Inspect the job-site or work area prior to beginning work. Look for any changes or hazards which you may be unaware of
- Make sure all personnel understand what the day’s work will encompass. If there are any hazards related to the job to be done; what needs to be done to minimize or eliminate those hazards?
- Practice good housekeeping throughout the day. Eliminate any possible hazards as they arise
- Stay alert throughout the day. Be aware at all times of what is happening around you, and around your co-workers
- At the end of the day, be sure to properly clean and store all tools and equipment in a dry, secure place for future use
- Make sure all barricades or guards required are in place before leaving the job-site
- Ensure that all equipment is properly parked and secured for the night
- Anticipate whether you will need any special tools or equipment to accomplish the work safely tomorrow
- Plan the safest route home and consider variables to the drive. For example, timing your departure around traffic or taking another route with fewer traffic hazards
Think safety first, last, and every moment in between. Planning and attention to details pay off in a safer, more efficient job. Accidents are usually a result of lack of attention or lack of planning, and are preventable almost 90% of the time.
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Please join us next Friday for more safety and compliance tips!