Following best workplace safety practices should be a daily commitment for everyone. According to the latest (2016) figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 5,190 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States – a 7-percent increase from the 4,836 fatal injuries reported in 2015.
To prevent this grim trend from increasing, it’s essential to build safety awareness and reinforce a culture of safety in the workplace – whether the environment is a construction site, industrial setting, agricultural, transportation or office. Here are 10 basic safety tips – and one extra – that should always be top-of-mind:
1. Be alert! Keep your head up and avoid distractions, such as texting or other cell phone use. Being aware of your surroundings to avoid hazardous situations is one of the best ways to prevent an accident.
2. Always use tools and operate machinery properly. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have, taking shortcuts is a leading cause of workplace injury. Examples include not wearing/removing protective clothing/goggles, using the wrong tool for the job or using scaffolding for a ladder.
3. Wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Be sure it meets the OSHA requirements appropriate for your job and fits properly. If the PPE does not fit properly, it can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed.
4. Keep clear access to all exits. Clutter blocking exits – especially emergency exits – can result in tragedy. Also, be sure not to block equipment shutoffs or use electrical rooms as a makeshift storage area. Supplies can block electrical installations when emergency access is necessary.
5. Be sober! Substance abuse – be it illicit or prescription drugs, and alcohol – is responsible for around three percent of workplace fatalities. The effect they have on judgment, focus, alertness and motor control pose a danger to the user and others in the workplace. If this is an issue, help, and support may be available through your employer, healthcare provider or a not-for-profit organization.
6. Work smarter, not harder. Use equipment such as a dolly, hand truck, wheelbarrow, forklift or crank instead of lifting and carrying heavy loads. Saving your back is more important than saving an extra minute or two.
7. Practice good posture. Whether you’re on the shop floor or behind a desk, posture and movements make a big difference. Desk dwellers should keep shoulders in line with hips to avoid back problems, while everyone should restrain from stooping and twisting.
8. Take a break! While it’s easy to get caught up in your work, taking time for regular breaks keeps you refreshed, focused and less likely to suffer injury brought on by fatigue.
9. Practice and promote health and wellness. Employers may already have an in-house program to encourage a healthy lifestyle. If not, there are many resources available to educate and motivate employees to eat right, exercise and lead a better-balanced life to help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. An employee-led group can also take the initiative.
10. Report unsafe conditions or products to your supervisor. Businesses have a legal obligation to ensure a safe working environment.
Now for a bonus safety tip! Building a culture of workplace safety doesn’t stop at the front door or loading dock. Everyone within your organization should be encouraged to prevent accidents outside of work – which have a direct impact on absenteeism, restricted work, and productivity. Use company bulletins and other in-house communications to deliver safety messages on such topics as grill safety, home repairs, and snow shoveling.
Remember: Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility!