Workplace hazards are preventable to an extent. While the accidents that occur as a result of these hazardous situations often come as a surprise, employers can prevent these accidents by working to eliminate these hazards in the workplace. The following situations are basic workplace hazards every worker should be aware of:
1. Unsafe Heights
One of the most common workplace hazards is a result of working at unsafe heights. Statistics show that falls in the workplace were responsible for 14% of 2014’s on-the-job fatalities. Similarly, OSHA standards relating to ladders and scaffolding are often the most cited in regards to violations.
Hazards relating to unsafe heights are a result of employees’ failure to understand their rights. Employers are required to provide workers with proper fall protection. The hazards are also increased by employers not wearing fall protection gear properly or employees that don’t account for proper fall protection processes.
The employers must identify locations where their employees would benefit from fall protection, as well as the location of anchor points. To ensure fall protection is indeed effective, employees should be trained to audit their company’s fall protection program.
2. Improper Housekeeping
Businesses that fail to practice proper housekeeping are creating hazards for their employees as well as clients and customers that frequent the establishment. Proper housekeeping involves maintaining a safe and accessible working area. Businesses that fail to clear fire exits, emergency exits, and aisles have a housekeeping problem.
Another example of improper housekeeping is overstacking loads on warehouse racks, bringing them too close to sprinkler heads. This overstacking can limit sprinklers’ efficiency in the event of a fire.
Employees that find themselves in danger or injured as a result of these hazards should contact an attorney to ensure their rights are properly protected when it really matters. With the proper legal assistance, workers will be able to earn the compensation that they deserve as a result of the injury. While some companies have workers’ compensation, using the services of an attorney will guarantee employees’ are able to collect everything from their lost wages to compensation for their medical bills.
3. Inappropriate Extension Cord Use
Proper extension cord practices significantly lower the risk of electrical hazards. Businesses that make a habit of “daisy chaining” or linking multiple power strips or extension cords for certain devices is incredibly dangerous. While extension cords are effective temporary solutions, cords used for weeks or months are in violation of best practices for extension cord use.
Additionally, businesses that leave extension cords on the ground for a longer period of time are creating trip hazards. In addition to making this working environment unsafe due to the risk of tripping, these extension cords are at risk for traffic abuse as they can be run over by the likes of feet and forklifts. This traffic abuse can easily wear down the insulation, which can make these extension cords a shock hazard.
4. Unsafe Forklift Operation
To operate forklifts safely, employees must be intentional and focused. Businesses that prioritize quick production are effectively pressuring workers to operate forklifts at a faster and unsafe pace. When workers start taking these shortcuts, it is easier to create a hazardous working environment.
These shortcuts and hazards include overloading the forklifts, driving while distracted, damaging products or the workplace itself, and even injuring other co-workers. In the event of forklift accidents, employers must focus on the root cause of the problem: improper forklift operation. By training employees to operate forklifts safely and creating an environment that encourages safe forklift use, employers will be able to reduce the likeliness of improper forklift use.
5. Improper Tagout/Lockout Procedures
Tagout/lockout procedures help to prevent serious injuries when they are followed by employees and employers. These procedures help to prevent machines from starting up or becoming unexpectedly energized when in use. While workers may use improper procedures in order to work more efficiently, failure to follow procedures puts employees at risk.
Even when these procedures are followed, employees can be put at risk if the equipment itself is faulty. Employers and employees can recognize a violation of tagout/lockout procedures by paying attention to employees’ level of complacency, the pace at which they work, and the level of familiarity they have with the equipment. By training employees to recognize if their coworkers are unqualified to follow through with these procedures, employers are able to limit related risks.
6. Hazardous Chemical Use
For many businesses, having excess chemicals can lead to serious hazards. With hundreds of unused chemicals, employers and employees are put at risk as these chemicals can become highly unstable over time. To limit the risk that unused chemicals present, organizations should create a control system that all workers follow.
This control system requires workers to keep an inventory of every product, as well as keep detailed accounts of all chemical’s expiration dates. All workers must make it a point to use these chemicals by the date of their expiration or dispose of them properly. With a successful control system, workers and employers are able to dispose of chemicals regularly, rather than allowing a cache of unused and dangerous chemicals to grow.
7. Dangerous Confined Spaces
Confined spaces are particularly hazardous when employers fail to carry out the necessary risk assessment. These confined spaces are especially hazardous and can endanger employees because they lead to situations in which other employees have limited access to space, which can prove to be disastrous in the event if the space collapses, a fire breaks out, or a similar accident occurs.
When working with confined spaces, workers need to do everything they can to ensure protocol is followed, permits are present, and everything is properly planned. With the proper risk assessment and protocols, workers can go into confined spaces without fear of danger.
The more aware employers and their workers are of potential workplace hazards, the less likely accidents are to happen. While accidents do happen in the workplace, staff that follows the proper protocols and works to create a safer working environment are able to limit the number of hazards present in the workplace. Keep these seven basic hazards in mind as you aim to improve safety at work.