Workplace safety is often discussed in a way that gives the impression it’s a stand-alone subject. But safety is an ongoing process, something that all employees participate in every single day. Only by being aware of workplace safety principles and mindfully incorporating them into our daily routines are we taking concrete steps toward a safer workplace for all.
Here are some key tips to start with:
- Know what the safety risks are where you work. What are the primary ways other employees have experienced on-the-job illness or injury? If you don’t know what to look out for, you won’t know how to mitigate the risk or be prepared for adverse situations.
- Practice physical safety. This is as simple as making sure lights are turned on in occupied spaces and lifting heavy objects with care and appropriate technique (and if you don’t know to do that, ask!).
- Arrange your workspace so that it’s ergonomically configured to accommodate repetitive motion or at-rest postures without undue physical stress. When sitting at your computer desk for several hours, does your neck hurt? Or do you experience pain in your wrists or elbows? This could be a strong indication that the height or angle of the equipment you’re using needs adjustment.
- Avoid distractions. This is especially important when working with heavy machinery or other equipment that could cause serious damage or harm. We all like to think we’re master multitaskers, but studies have shown that we really do best when we focus on one thing at a time, whether that’s data entry or driving a forklift.
- This is a 2-part safety tip. First, stop, look, and listen: this is a good way to immediately survey your surroundings on a regular basis and note any unsafe conditions, especially while they still could be considered minor. This is the time to notice one of the overhead lights is out or the cracked concrete walkway to the front door has settled enough to cause a tripping hazard. Second, know to whom you should report noted safety issues and how. Is there a designated phone number or email address to use for notification? Is there a help ticket system to document issues and progress made to assigning and managing the fix?
- Survey machinery before operating it. That goes for anything from the copy machine to the backhoe to industrial machinery of all kinds. Be aware of any missing, not working, loose or otherwise “off” parts, especially moving parts. Ensure the workspace is clear of obstructions or things that could fall into machinery. Note problems and report them promptly.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and gear, from goggles to vests. Even when there are no established workplace safety gear rules, use common sense. For example, improper footwear can pose a tripping hazard or leave you vulnerable to injury if something gets dropped; if you’re working with machinery of any kind, be cautious of getting rings, watches, long hair or ties caught.
- Keep walkways clear of cables, cords, and other trip hazards, even temporarily. It’s tempting to think that you’ll come back and reconfigure things later and get those cords out of the way but it’s also easy to forget because you’re busy.
- Know where the emergency exits are and prevent them from being blocked. Because emergencies are typically uncommon, it’s easy to forget that some exits are designated as such. Sometimes, laws apply to posting a small copy of the building layout on the wall, with emergency exits marked on them.
- Manage spills and clean them up promptly and properly. Avoid slip and fall hazards, as well as electrical hazards. While you’re gathering cleanup supplies, restrict the area by cones or tape to alert others to the danger.
- Know and follow your company’s safety policies and procedures. Participate in safety meetings, trainings, and drills. Being engaged every day is the best way to stay in the habit of good workplace safety practices and to be prepared in the event of an emergency.
Workplace safety isn’t something that employees need to think about only during training workshops or drills. By having a high level of safety awareness and practicing common sense safety habits all the time, everyone has a role in maintaining a safe workplace, where the number of accidents and injuries is minimized.
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