Workplace safety has become a concern and is of paramount importance in preventing and limiting controllable mishaps in the workplace. Many companies have put policies and safety measures in place to protect the lives of employees and themselves and thus minimize the occurrences of these mishaps. It is important that companies establish these safety protocols and instil them in their employees through training at the outset of employment.
These measures must also continue to be monitored and enforced to maintain safety. Some of the more common hazards that the National Safety Council has come across in inspecting operations will be discussed in this article.
- Poor Storage and Maintenance Practices
One of the leading workplace safety hazards is clutter created by the storage of items in areas they ought not to be. Little used areas like fire and emergency exits and aisle ways tend to be areas which are subject to this kind of stowage. This creates an impediment to safe moving around and will be disastrous in the event of an emergency.
Having a designated storage area outside of the main thoroughfare will address this issue. Also regular clean-up of work areas throughout the day or at the end of the work day ensures that the work spaces will be kept in good order and minimize the risks of falls or slips in the event of clutter or leaks. When it comes to storage warehouses, ensuring that shelves or storage areas are not over extended will prevent safety features from being impeded. Clear access needs to be available to reach fire extinguishers and emergency exits and also sprinklers need to be free from clutter in the event of a fire. Regular maintenance makes it easier to identify other hazards that need to be resolved.
- Uncontrolled Chemical Inventory
Chemicals purchased for use in operations may accumulate over time if unfinished after use. Because chemicals tend to degrade and change in composition over time, you will find that some become unstable and more reactive and thus become potentially explosive. Having a system in place to monitor the use, date of purchase and date of expiration of chemical inventory will help these chemicals to be rotated in an efficient manner. The material safety data sheets (MSDS) which comes with each chemical also provides stipulations on how to safely dispose of these chemicals and thus keep your work space free of chemical hazards.
- Improper Use of Extension Cords
The use of a chain of multiple extension cords and / or power strips to power a device or machine is a very unwise and unsafe practice. Especially in large scale operations, they are intended for temporary use as they can create fluctuations in the distribution of electricity to units they power. Extension cords running along floors also pose the potential risk of injuries due to trips and falls.
Additionally, cords used in this way may get run over by forklifts or other mobile equipment and become subject to fraying and wear which leads to exposed wires and definite electrical hazards. If liquids come into contact with these cords, that poses an added hazard to employees as well as to the devices powered by them.
- Fall Hazards – Working from Height
Proper gear to provide safety from falling – including man down incidents – should be provided by employers. In addition, the gear must be properly worn to be effective in performing the safety functions. Harnesses, scaffolds and appropriate ladders must be employed in situations where they are required to provide adequate protection for employees who need them.
Storage of equipment on the roofs of buildings also presents a fall hazard. These items must be properly anchored and stored so as not to pose a threat. Companies should ensure that they have a fall protection policy in place so that all involved are aware of what is required and the standards governing working from heights are known.
- Use of Forklifts
The use of forklifts in operations takes a lot of heavy manual lifting out of the equation and makes moving items around convenient and efficient. While these are in common use, it is important that forklift drivers not take unnecessary chances by carrying items over the recommended weight and height capacity of the forklift. This has resulted in many accidents including the damage of goods, infrastructure and people.
Proper training and monitoring systems must be put in place to ensure that the workplace safety standards governing the use of forklifts are being maintained. Rush orders may require workers to operate more efficiently however the temptation to rush presents the added hazard of cutting corners to get the job done and this is where risks to safety increase.
Employers must do their part to ensure that adequate staffing is provided to realistically complete tasks so that safety standards are not cast aside. Also designating walking areas strictly for pedestrians adds to the safety efforts.