Safety is priority No. 1 at any workplace, but for some reason many organizations don't take the necessary steps to promote a safe work environment. Most likely, this shortcoming isn't due to willful negligence, but rather oversight and assumptions. Human error can trump a number of accident prevention methods, which is why it's crucial for companies to be methodical and deliberate about workplace safety. Here are 10 of the most critical safety tips every organization should be aware of:
1. Stop falls
In the construction industry, no threat is greater to workers than falling. In 2013, falls accounted for 291 of the 829 total fatalities in the construction workplace, making falls the most deadly workplace accident, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Fall prevention is a broad topic that includes education, fall hazard signs, and strong equipment like harnesses and helmets.
"Not sure where to place a sign? There's a regulation for that."
2. Follow regulations
Not sure how something should be marked or where to place certain signs? There's a regulation for that. Agencies like OSHA, the American National Standards Institute and The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals set rules and guidelines to teach companies how best to create a safe work environment.
3. Use appropriate signage to inform employees
Workers won't necessarily know where the dangers are if they aren't properly marked. Equipment hazard signs, high temperature warnings, fire extinguisher signs and a litany of others all need to be clearly marked for worker safety. The best signs are universally understandable, durable and highly visible.
4. Mark the exits
In the event of an emergency evacuation, employees must know exactly how to get to the nearest exit. By marking the exits, providing arrows pointing toward the nearest escape route and posting evacuation protocol throughout the facility, companies can facilitate orderly and safe evacuations in case of a fire or other emergency.
5. Provide safety equipment
Managers must insist on the necessary PPE at all times – even when the employee thinks it's unnecessary. Accidents can happen anytime – even when you least expect it. Better to be prepared at all times by wearing eye protection, gloves, steel-toed shoes and any other necessary precautionary items.
6. Encourage breaks
When are signs, equipment and labels not enough to prevent an accident? When workers are too tired to read them or use them properly. Don't let employees become overtired or burned out – tell them to take a 5 or 10 minute break from time to time, drink some water or coffee, and relax before getting back to work. Never work through exhaustion.
7. Stress training
An employee shouldn't be expected to use equipment he hasn't been trained on. Even though it may mean a bit of downtime or lower productivity, it's worth training employees on safe equipment use to prevent accidents. Plus, that productivity will improve in the long run if more employees have solid training.
Employees can also improve the safety of their workplace if the channels of communication between them and management are open. Workers should feel comfortable telling a manager or supervisor if they find something to be unsafe, if they feel nervous in a certain area or performing a specific task.
9. Let technology do the lifting
Forklifts, pallet jacks and levers exist for a reason. Take the stress off employees' backs by having them use tools designed for lifting or moving heavy objects. Not only is it more efficient and faster, it will also prevent workers from pulling muscles or dropping items on their feet and breaking their toes.
10. Above all…
Build a culture of safety. It isn't enough to put up a few signs, hold a meeting and tell employees, "Safety first." The best organizations don't accept anything less than the top standards in safe practice. Safety is rewarded routinely, unsafe practices are forbidden and punishable, and everyone in the company takes safety seriously.
Accidents in the workplace are costly and sometimes tragic. The hardest thing for an injured employee to stomach is the fact that the accident could easily have been prevented with more careful attention to safety. By following these steps, an organization will be setting itself up for success and keeping its employees safe and happy.