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Overview

Employees are the biggest asset of organizations and corporations, which is why no matter the size of the business, their health and safety should be considered top-priority. Businesses can keep their employees healthy, content, and motivated by taking care of the workplace safety, and also save money in the long run.

By implementing efficient workplace safety procedures and regulations which employees follow, the amount of money spent on health insurance benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, and wages for temporary help can be significantly reduced. Furthermore, good workplace safety management reduces expenditure on lost-work hours, training of a temporary workforce, and the services that ceased functioning due to fewer employees being present.

Each organization will develop their own system of preventing injuries depending on their industry, their way of doing business, and the hazards present in the workplace.

In order for the safety program to be successful, employees must be engaged in the creation and implementation of the safety procedures.

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General Precautions

Preventing injurie at work does not need to involve complicated processes and procedures for either the employer or the employees. Often it can be as simple as:

  • Making sure you know how to lift objects safely
  • Using mechanical aids whenever it is possible
  • Taking short breaks often
  • Wearing protective equipment
  • Arranging your safety equipment so that it fits your body
  • Using the proper tools for the job in the appropriate manner
  • Keeping drawers and cabinet doors closed at all times
  • Being aware of your surroundings
  • Not consuming alcohol or drugs at the workplace

These measures, together with the additional ones specifically designed for your industry, should be adopted to ensure safety and maintain health at the workplace.

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Avoiding Slips and Falls

Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common types of injuries in the workplace. According to the National Safety Council, nearly 600 people died and 47,000 were injured during 2013 as the result of slip and falls in the workplace.

Common locations for falls include doorways, ramps, cluttered hallways, areas with heavy traffic, uneven surfaces, unguarded heights, areas prone to wetness or spills, ladders, and stairs.

To prevent slipping and tripping in the workplace there are certain preventive measures individuals can take:

  • Clean up all spills immediately.
  • Do not walk on freshly mopped floors.
  • Wear slip resistant footwear.
  • Keep electrical and phone cords out of walkways.
  • Keep items frequently used in areas easy to reach.
  • Do not stand on a surface that has wheels (such as rolling chairs).
  • Always ensure adequate lighting.

To prevent falling when using a ladder, you should:

  • Always keep at least three points of contact with the ladder (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand).
  • Place the ladder on a firm and solid surface.
  • When you climb, face the ladder and grip the rungs. Do not go sideways.
  • Always climb down one rung at a time.
  • Do not climb with tools in the hand – use a tool belt.
  • If you cannot reach something when you are already up, climb down and reposition the ladder.

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Lifting Properly

To avoid injury while lifting and handling weight, you should follow these steps:

  • Make a plan on how you are going to approach the object.
  • Do simple exercises to warm up before lifting.
  • Stand as close to the load as possible when lifting.
  • Do not lift from a standing position with your waist bent. Kneel, resting one knee on the floor. Another option is to squat to lift an object from the floor.
  • Never twist your back when you are lifting.
  • Always keep the neutral position of your back.
  • Bend your knees while lifting to use the strength of your legs to lift, rather than your back.
  • If you cannot grip the item properly, or it is too heavy, ask for help.

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Using Appropriate Safety Equipment

OSHA requires the use of protective equipment when engineering and administrative controls are not sufficient for reducing hazards at the workplace to acceptable levels. Using appropriate safety equipment is important because it minimizes exposure to chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, and mechanical hazards which may cause injury or illness at the workplace. For each type of hazard, there is specific equipment designed to protect the employees exposed to it. Personal protective equipment (PPE) may include items such as gloves, safety goggles, shoes, earplugs or muffs, respirators, hard hats, vests, coveralls, and full body suits.

To ensure that workers use the protective equipment whenever they are in the workplace, the equipment should be safely designed and constructed, fit comfortably, and not disturb workers in their daily job.

Each worker should be trained to know:

  • The kind of equipment that is necessary
  • When it is necessary to use the equipment
  • How to properly put it on, wear it, and take it off
  • The limitations of the equipment
  • How to properly maintain and clean the equipment

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Maintain Proper Training and Certifications

The OSHA training requirements for your organization depend on the type of the activities your employees are performing.

General regulations by OSHA require businesses to provide training:

  • To all new employees
  • When an employee changes to a new position and has new assignments for which he or she was not trained previously
  • When new substances, procedures, and processes are introduced to the workplace
  • Whenever an employer is made aware of a previously unrecognized hazard in the workplace
  • To familiarize supervisors with hazards to which employees under their direction might be exposed

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Fire Safety

To prevent any injuries and deaths from a fire in the workplace, each organization must provide proper exits in case of the emergency, as well as training for the employees on what to do in a fire emergency, how to evacuate, and how to use firefighting equipment.

OSHA requires each workplace to have enough exits appropriately located to enable everyone to evacuate quickly in the event of an emergency. In addition, it is mandatory for fire doors to be unlocked at all times.

Other advice for workers and employers to keep the workplace fire-safe include:

  1. Smoke only in designated areas.
  2. Do not clutter the workplace because it can provide fuel and prevent access to exits.
  3. Report all malfunctioning electrical equipment.
  4. Maintain free access to electrical control panels.
  5. Maintain machinery to prevent overheating and friction sparks.
  6. Use and store chemicals safely.
  7. Place emergency exit diagrams in visible areas at the workplace and lit the emergency exits.
  8. Provide employees with a list of emergency contact phone numbers.

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General Office Safety

Offices are, in general, safer places to work compared to industrial and construction sites, but injuries do occur. Be aware of your environment, your actions, and the consequences of those actions to others sharing the space with you.

To reduce the hazards in the office and the possibility of an accident:

  • File drawers should be kept closed when they are not used
  • All the walkways should be cleared
  • Use of electric extension cords should be avoided if possible
  • If electrical cords are used, they should be placed against walls, under desks, or in corners
  • Electrical appliances need to be maintained and regularly inspected
  • Computers and monitors should be secured to prevent them from falling over
  • Office equipment should not be placed near the edge of tables or desks
  • Heavy objects should be stored on lower shelves

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Workplace Safety Laws

Three Department of Labor agencies have responsibility for the administration and enforcement of laws aimed at protecting safety and health of workers in the United States. Those are Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Mine Safety and Health Administration, and The Fair Labor Standards Act. The Occupational and Safety Health Act (OSHA) is the main agency protecting the health and safety of workers at the workplace because it covers nearly every employee in the nation.

Under OSHA, states do not have autonomy to change any laws that are already covered by OSHA regulations. If they desire to do so, they must submit a plan for federal approval. On the other hand, states may regulate freely any areas which are not covered by federal OSHA regulations. Some states, such as California, have chosen to adopt many of their own regulations instead of those put into effect by OSHA.

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Additional Resources

If you would like to read more, here are some good websites and topics to start with:

Workplace Safety Guide
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