In today’s changing work environment, it is important to emphasize workplace safety and security. While safety policies are often focused on catastrophic events like workplace shootings and fires, the workplace safety officer is busy every day managing basic activities.

It is important that every workplace put safety regulations into place that will help the office run smoothly as well as easing employees’ and customers’ anxieties. Burlington, ON-based Kevin Gray, a facilities management leader, explains how workplace safety affects daily operations at a successful business and offers tips for employees and managers that will help enhance safety and security.

Rail and railroad inspector

Possible Workplace Dangers

Working at Height

One of the most dangerous aspects of business is when employees need to work on a ladder or scaffolding. Falls are frequent and can be catastrophic, resulting in injury or death. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 14 percent of all workplace fatalities in 2014 were the result of falls.

Employers must understand that they need to provide gear to protect from falls. Employees need to be trained to properly use this equipment, and every employee in these areas should be trained on what not to do while working at height. Employers should also have written procedures for fall protection and prevention.

Trips and Falls

Trips, slips, and falls are also serious workplace dangers. Often, these problems can be prevented using simple common sense, like clearing items from the floor that can be tripped over. Quickly cleaning up all spills is another crucial component of a company’s safety policy. These issues can seem small, but they can result in workers’ compensation claims or even death.

One area where problems are frequent is the electrical room. Too often, other items are stored near electrical equipment. This can cause trips and falls when workers are trying to repair the electrical system in case of an outage.

Electrical Problems

Another common problem at many worksites is the inappropriate use of extension cords and electrical plugs. It is vital that these systems are not overloaded, as they can easily cause fires with property damage and injuries. Chaining electrical cords together can be very dangerous. When an employee sees a problem with electrical use, they should feel that they can go to the workplace safety officer with their concerns.

When an extension cord is used for weeks or months, it is no longer temporary and can fall under OSHA violations. Extension cords are also frequent tripping hazards and can be damaged when they are run over by forklifts or other heavy equipment.

Forklift in warehouse management

Forklifts

Driving a forklift is a serious responsibility. When operators are not properly trained, they can injure themselves and others, as well as damaging inventory and equipment. S

afety officers say that the worst forklift problems are caused by time pressure. People frequently overload forklifts and drive them too quickly. Either of these issues can cause an accident. When an accident happens, the operator is generally punished, but the ongoing issue of not enough forklifts or staff is not remedied. This can leave the way open for further forklift accidents.

Chemical Use

The use of chemicals in the workplace needs to be carefully regulated. Chemicals need to be stored in clearly labeled containers. Personnel who work with or near these chemicals need to understand what happens when these chemicals age. In some cases, safe compounds can degrade into explosives like peroxide. OSHA requires that chemicals be kept track of using an expiration date system.

Confined Spaces

Confined spaces can present significant safety hazards. Employers need to be sure that their workers are properly trained and that they receive all of the safety equipment necessary for this type of job. Hazardous conditions that can occur must be known ahead of time. When employers put time and thought into working in confined spaces, these errors and injuries can be greatly reduced.

Secured or Restricted Access

Employees need to understand whether their place of work has sensitive areas that should not be accessible to visitors. They should be trained not to let anyone in the building with them after they have used their keycode or card to enter the business. They should know the policies for weapons and other hazardous objects in the workplace.

Workplace safety officers need to create escape plans and meeting places for employees to use if there is a serious problem like a fire, chemical spill, or immediate safety hazard such as an active shooter. These plans need to be kept up to date and drills need to happen regularly.

Safety first reminder
photo credit: Craig Bennett / Flickr

Conclusion

Employees should be made aware of the potential for problems without making them paranoid about their safety. When employees are fearful, they are not likely to be able to do their jobs correctly.

Kevin Gray understands the demands placed on workplace safety officers. Training all employees on safety topics is paramount.