When we think about safety issues in the workplace, the usual suspects are slip-and-fall accidents, falling objects, and machinery malfunction; But there are many others that are important to recognize. It is vital to stay aware and be proactive when it comes to anything at all that could threaten the well-being of your employees or colleagues.
Of course, the worst consequence of neglect ends in an employee being harmed. But even the mildest of disruptions – such as a simple bad cold – can end up costing your company tons of productivity and money.
Below are five of the most overlooked hazards in the workplace.
Failures in Communication
Just like most things in life, safety in the workplace often comes down to good communication. Whether it’s between the boss and employees or amongst coworkers, making sure the lines are open and directions are clear will make for a much smoother operation with minimal trouble.
A few important practices that can help:
- Reduce confusion by clearly defining and communicating goals and expectations
- Engage in team building activities to keep morale up and make sure that the staff feels comfortable with one another
- Be certain to be attentive and communicative when using equipment, handling goods and driving vehicles
- Provide plenty of signage with important directions and guidelines
Danger of Distractions
Put the Phone Away. Of course one of the easiest and biggest distractions in our way these days is the all-consuming cell phone. Consider the tendency of so many otherwise smart, responsible Americans to text while driving. It is no surprise then that a majority of today’s laborers have no problem using their phones while working. We need reminders that many people have been seriously injured, or even killed, as a result of the use of phones while operating machinery.
No Goofing Off. While workplace friendships should certainly be encouraged, be careful not to distract each other with chatting and horseplay.
Be Present. Of course, daily work tasks can sometimes be monotonous, but it is important to stay aware and attentive and avoid the temptation to daydream. If there is something serious on your mind, take the time to speak to someone about it and resolve what you can so you can be 100% focused on your work.
To sum it up, if you are feeling distracted, take a break. Employers – make sure your team feels safe and free to do so. A focus on profit and productivity should never trump the safety and well-being of your employees.
The National Safety Council notes that manual handling of objects accounts for an estimated 25% of all occupational injuries.
So the first goal is to eliminate manual lifting when you can. Keep materials within easy reach and get help if the object feels too heavy. Don’t twist back or bend sideways or attempt anything if you are in an awkward position
Keep these tips in mind when you must handle something heavy:
- Stand close to the load with feet spread shoulder-width apart. Put one foot slightly in front of the other for balance.
- Squat down bending at the knees (not the waist). Tuck your chin while keeping your back as vertical as possible.
- Get a firm grasp before beginning to lift.
- Slowly begin straightening your legs, lifting slowly. Again -no twisting of the body.
- Once the lift is complete keep the object close to the body
Of course, you’ll be better prepared if you stay in good physical shape and practice stretching consistently.
Noise damage is one of those things that can creep up on you. You have no idea the effect it’s having until you suddenly find yourself asking others to constantly repeat themselves.
When you receive a visit from your safety and health inspector, they will use a sound level meter to determine your noise level. This level should be kept below 85 dBA as an 8-hour time-weighted average (for reference- a jackhammer and stud welder come in at 100dBA). Any more than that can cause significant damage over time.
But when you don’t have the technology on-hand, practice the 3-foot rule: Stand about an arm’s length away from a coworker. If you have to raise your voice to be heard, the sound level is probably at or above 85dBA.
Tips on preventing damage:
- Wear protection – earplugs or earmuffs when using loud equipment
- See a hearing health professional routinely for testing
- Purchase/use quieter equipment
- Buy materials to build sound barriers
- Schedule noisy activities during hours when fewer people are working.
Why is this so important? Damage to your hearing can be improved but once hearing loss occurs it cannot be cured or reversed
Cold and Flu
First piece of advice: Stay Home! If you have a fever, stay at home until 24 hours after the fever ends. Even if there’s no fever, if symptoms such as runny nose, aches, fatigue, diarrhea or vomiting are interrupting your normal function, don’t come in.
Some other great ideas:
- Get Vaccinated
- Wash hands thoroughly and frequently
- Avoid touching nose, mouth, eyes
- Cover all coughs and sneezes with upper sleeve
- Keep common surfaces clean
- Avoid close contact with coworkers when any symptoms are present and during the seasons when illness is most rampant