In 2019, 2.8 million nonfatal job injuries and illnesses occurred in the private US work sector. Both 2018 and 2017 had the same number of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. These figures show that for every 100 full-time workers, 2.8 injuries or illnesses occur.
Moreover, the estimated cost of workplace injuries in 2019 alone totaled $171 billion. This represents wage and productivity losses, as well as medical and administrative expenses. Of that $171 billion, 31.5%, or $53.9 billion, was for wage and productivity losses.
The thing is, having a safe work environment could have prevented many of these incidents.
How exactly do you provide a safe workplace for your hardworking employees, though? What strategies can you put in place to keep such dangers at bay?
We’ve rounded up some of the top work safety tips to answer those questions in this guide, so be sure to read on!
Identify Hazards Specific To Your Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is one of the federal laws all employers must abide by. The OSH Act enforces protective standards for workplace safety and health. This law mandates employers to eliminate recognized hazards from their workplaces.
However, hazards vary from one workplace to another, and each has unique dangers. For example, health care facilities have a high risk of germs and infections. By contrast, equipment injuries are more common in manufacturing facilities.
For those reasons, it’s best for employers to get a workplace risk assessment. With this, you can identify factors in your workplace that can cause harm. You can then evaluate those risks and figure out the best ways to get rid of or control them.
If you know what can harm your people, then you can prevent such dangers from happening in the first place.
Invest in Workplace Safety Training Programs
Having a safe working environment is a collaboration between you and your workforce. Yes, it’s your responsibility to give them a safe place to work, but it’s also their duty to follow the rules. However, if they don’t understand the dangers, they can underestimate these risks.
As such, the OSH law requires employers to train their workforce. The “lessons” should also use language and vocabulary that employees can understand. This means using basic words and offering multi-language training.
Workplace safety training is one of the most effective ways to go about this. These programs instill workers with the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe at work. Moreover, they teach employees how to cooperate so that they can also “co-work” in a safe way.
Workplace safety training also covers instructions and guidelines in handling job hazards. It teaches workers the steps to take if a work accident occurs. It also helps encourage workers to be proactive in identifying and reporting risks.
Make Hazard Warnings and Danger Signs Visible From Afar
Under the OSH law, employers are responsible for warning employees of potential hazards. One way to comply with this is by putting posters, labels, signs, and industrial stickers. However, these safety signs for businesses must also follow proper color coding protocols.
For example, red safety signs indicate an immediate and high risk of injury or death. They’re usually for fire hazards, but they’re also common on hazardous machines. Emergency switches (such as fire alarms) should also be in red.
“Warning” signs, which are predominantly orange, “warn” about non-immediate risks. An example of orange label use is on dangerous equipment parts that can crush, cut, or shock users.
“Caution” signs, which should be in yellow, alert people to potential risk. An example of where to use these are areas with slip, trip, or fall risks.
Fluorescent orange (or orange-red) signs are for biological hazards. Any area, machine, or product that can pose such dangers should have orange labels.
Keep in mind, too, that the sign’s actual text (or symbol) color is as vital as the background color. The letters and characters should be in a contrasting color to the background. An example is a white “DANGER” message against a red background.
Stay on Top of Equipment and Facility Maintenance
In 2019, 15,380 wound injuries occurred in the manufacturing sector. These injuries include cuts, lacerations, and punctures. Many of them resulted from the use of equipment, while others were due to contact with objects.
Faulty equipment and ill-maintained facilities are two top causes of such incidents. Unsanitary work conditions can also result in illnesses, such as lung infections.
That’s why it’s vital for you and your workforce to stick to maintenance schedules. This depends on the type of equipment and their manufacturers.
There are also specific OSHA rules on equipment upkeep for special industries. Section 1910 of the OSH Act codifies these specific preventive maintenance procedures. These include certain equipment used in textiles, bakery, and logging, among others.
Encourage Openness and Communication
A survey found that more than half of employees who quit cited not being able to “stand” their boss as their reason. Some who left said their manager didn’t respect them, while others had a boss who “didn’t listen.”
All that proves how communication is key to “protecting” your workforce. This is especially crucial when employees feel that their health and safety are on the line. So, to facilitate “openness,” give workers a platform to voice out their concerns.
An example is to build a Safety Committee that workers can directly talk to. You can also set up suggestion boxes where employees can voice out their ideas. A team outing or get-together can also be a more relaxed way to get those worker insights out in the open.
The most important thing is to make sure you take the time to read those suggestions. If they’re feasible, include them in your workplace safety program. Lastly, don’t forget to acknowledge and thank the person the suggestion came from.
All these can help foster better communication and openness in the workplace.
A Safe Work Environment Is Home To Happy Employees
Keep in mind that happy employees tend to work faster and be more productive than unhappy ones. Health and safety, in turn, are both measures of happiness. That’s why having a safe work environment is also a ticket to their happiness.
So, the healthier and safer a workplace is, the happier and more productive workers are likely to be.
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