Achieving a safer work environment
June 10, 2022 by Keely Knopp
Celebrated each year in June, National Safety Month aims to help educate and influence behaviors that prevent injuries and deaths in the workplace. By utilizing proper risk assessment techniques and proper safety equipment for the task at hand, while also maintaining a drug- and alcohol-free work environment, most workplace injuries can be prevented. Below are a few tips to help employers ensure workers stay as safe as possible on the job.
- Prevent slips, trips and falls. In 2020, 805 workers across the U.S. died in falls, and more than 211,000 workers suffered slip-and-fall injuries severe enough to require time off from work. Most falls are 100% preventable, and companies can reduce the risk of slips and falls by assessing risks at jobsites and by using the proper equipment to complete workplace tasks. First, look for ways to accomplish required tasks on the ground, if possible. If working from height is required, ensure guardrails and toe-boards are properly installed and that workers are properly trained on the use of safety equipment.
- Reduce risk of musculoskeletal disorders. According to the National Safety Council, musculoskeletal injuries are the most common type of injury in the workplace. Tools designed to work with the body’s natural movements can minimize the risk for these disorders. Investing in ergonomic office furniture and other tools can help prevent these injuries in both field personnel and office workers. You may also want to consider looking into processes and work designs that help reduce worker fatigue, increase productivity, and avoid injuries and strains.
- Watch out for invisible confined space hazards. Atmospheric hazards might not be visible to the human eye, but they are all too common in environments where employees must work underground, in poorly ventilated places or in other confined spaces. Before heading into a manhole or other confined or closed workspace, practice OSHA’s “test, purge and ventilate” routine to ensure that the space is free of combustible gases and has ample oxygen.
- Step up your ladder safety. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, approximately 65,000 workers go to the hospital every year due to ladder-related accidents. Before using a ladder, inspect it for broken rungs, missing bolts and other broken parts and make sure it is placed on level ground. When climbing up and down, face the ladder while holding onto both sides. Use a ladder wedge to help keep the ladder steady.
- Cool down when temperatures rise. Working in the summer months puts employees at risk for heat-related illnesses, especially in the South. Repeated and prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to injuries, illnesses, and even death. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 144 environmental heat-related deaths occurred between 2011 and 2019. Ensuring employees stay hydrated, take regular breaks and wear lightweight clothing can help safeguard against heat-related illness in the workforce. Consider supplying workers with umbrellas or shade tents when working outdoors in the summer months, and encourage them to take frequent breaks.
- Consider random or periodic drug and alcohol screenings for employees. Many companies already have policies in place regarding drug or alcohol use for their employees. Having clear policies is a great start, but employers can also implement random or periodic testing practices to further ensure that employees are adhering to those policies — and, in turn, fostering a safer work environment. Mercy Occupational Medicine can help employers explore and set up screening programs, including a 24/7 service to ensure companies have the testing capabilities they need, even after normal business hours.
Mercy Occupational Medicine encourages employers to review company safety protocols during National Safety Month. Adopting safety protocols and encouraging employees to follow all safety guidelines is a great way to prevent injuries and lost productivity in the workplace.
Sources: National Safety Council, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics