Safety hazards exist in every workplace, but what, exactly, is considered to be a “safety hazard”? Safety hazards are unsafe working conditions that can cause injury, illness, and/or death. For this second of seven articles in our “Workplace Hazards” series we will be covering safety hazards. They are the most common of the six types of hazards and exist in every workplace.
How to know if something is a Safety Hazard:
Safety hazards fall into two categories; potentially dangerous equipment or tools, and hazards that may cause slips, trips, and falls. Safety hazards include but are not limited to:
- Anything that can cause spills or trips such as cords running across the floor or ice
- Anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
- Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch
- Electrical safety hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, and improper wiring
- Confined spaces that can pose risks from poor air quality or visibility
- Tasks that could potentially lead to an employee being harmed (e.g. making a late-night bank deposit)
Questions to ask about safety hazards when assessing your workplace
Some examples of questions to ask are:
- Is my employee at risk due to the physical layout of the workplace?
- Is my employee working with any dangerous equipment, tools, or materials?
- Is my employee at risk of slipping, tripping, or falling?
- Are there any blind spots or poorly lit areas in the workspace?
- Are walking and driving paths clear and free of obstructions?
- Can my employee safely do their job in the workplace as is or do changes need to be made to increase their safety?
- How likely is it that a hazardous condition or situation will result in an incident?
- If an incident does occur, how serious would it be?
What to do once Safety Hazards have been identified
Once workplace dangers have been identified, it is important to take corrective action to reduce the risk related to the safety hazards. If injuries have occurred on the job before, it is important to investigate the incident and do everything possible to ensure that this workplace injury doesn’t happen again. Assessment of safety measures should be done regularly and whenever the physical layout of the workplace changes. If safety hazards can’t be eliminated, then controls must be implemented immediately to reduce risk to workers.
Administrative Vs. Engineering Controls
Two of the most important controls that can help increase safety in the workplace are engineering and administrative controls.
Engineering controls decrease safety hazards by reducing or eliminating risk through physical means. Some examples of engineering controls are changing layout, using protective equipment, or installing protective components to the workplace.
Administrative controls reduce risk by changing work processes and activities so that they are safer. Examples of administrative controls include strategic scheduling, planning, staffing and coordinating so that employees are safer.
How working alone exacerbates an employees risk
Working alone increases safety hazards because workers are exposed to a variety of risks that could be prevented or alleviated if a co-worker were working with them. Lone workers are more vulnerable to violence, and if they are injured, it is more difficult to ask for help. Employees need to be especially aware of their surroundings and they should be trained in how to operate in these settings along with a regular check-in procedure at set intervals to their employer using a program such as SafetyLine Lone Worker.
Lone workers should keep areas well lit, make sure all mirrors and security cameras are working, as well as check in with employers at regular intervals. Cash-handling training is important for employees as well and they should regularly make money drops so the funds on the premises doesn’t put them at risk. If employees are physically threatened with violence they should be trained not to resist. Employees working alone they should always be equipped with a two-way communication system, make sure their vehicle is in good running order, and should minimize the amount of cash or product on them at a given time. They should also be trained in areas to avoid, safer driving practices and basic vehicle repair.
Employee safety is extremely important, so it is essential to regularly assess and plan for safety hazards in the workplace. By following some of these tips you will be better prepared to protect your organization’s most valuable asset – the employee. Feel free to contact us if you have any more questions about Safety Assessment in the workplace.