Posted by Steve Gohde on June 27
Though workplace related injuries are at their second lowest on record, an average of 13 workplace fatalities occur daily. According to OSHA, the top violations and causes of workplace related injuries largely occur from falls, poor hazard communication, lack of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), electrocution from high-voltage equipment (lockout/tagout, high voltage system design), and improper operating, guarding, or maintenance of equipment, machinery, or tools. The losses incurred have far reaching impacts beyond just the measurable costs of lower productivity, absenteeism, higher insurance costs, and damage to property, plant, and equipment. The hidden costs, including impact to family, friends, workplace morale, and more can be multiple times the direct measurable impact of illness, injury, or death to the organization. Increasing workplace safety by mitigating injuries is a worthwhile objective for any organization from both a fiscal and cultural standpoint.
Protecting your employees is a group effort that requires clear safety goals set by organizational leaders, an effective communication and training plan around those goals, tangible activities to ensure those goals are met, and an organization wide embrace of safety as a priority. Professional audits are a great way to ensure compliance; however a simple way to immediately begin mitigating potential issues is by walking your facility and evaluating how each of your 5 senses are put in danger.
Touch – Is there a present or potential danger that could arise from coming in contact with something such as chemicals causing burns, interacting with equipment, machinery, or tools that could cause injuries, or coming in contact with high-voltage systems causing electrocution. Conversely, is there a present or potential danger that could come from a trip, fall, or spill?
Sight – Is there a present or potential danger that could arise from looking at something such as eye damage from exposure to lasers, bright light, or flying debris?
Smell / Taste – Is there a present or potential danger that could arise from inhaling something such as dust, fumes, vapors, gases, chemical mists, or particle residue?
Hear – Is there a present or potential danger that could arise from hearing something including short bursts of high volume or long, continuous exposure to low, but dangerous levels of ambient noise from machinery?
After identifying such hazards, the next key is to identify the corrective actions to protect your employees. This could include everything from a simple sign denoting WARNING, to prescribing required PPE, to designating areas of “No Entrance/Access” as is commonly done with confined spaces and lockout tag-out procedures.
Proper one-on-one training and communication of safety procedures is the most important activity anyone can take in protecting an employee. Following training, a clear visual workplace standard that clearly denotes hazards and their associated corrective / protective actions is critical. This can easily be done by following simple guidelines as laid out by the American National Standards Institute and or the International Standards Organization. Both prescribe the use of colors to denote level of severity.
In addition to communicating a specific message, the colors are widely understood across language barriers as an indicator of important information and varying degrees of severity which is critical in an ever increasing trend of multi-lingual workplaces. If English and Spanish are both used as primary languages, the communication should be in both languages.
Both standards also recommend using pictograms when applicable to denote the type of injury that could be incurred and or the required PPE associated with mitigating the hazard.
After training employees on proper safety procedures, visually warning them of the potential hazards, and provided them with easy access to proper PPE, a facility is poised for a strong track record of safe operating. The only thing left to do is reward behavior that supports the organizations commitment to safety.
For more information: OSHA 29 CFR 1926.451, 29 CFR 1926.501, 29 CFR 1910.1200, 29 CFR 1910.134, 29 CFR 1910.147, 29 CFR 1910.305, 29 CFR 1910.178, 29 CFR 1926.1053, 29 CFR 1910.303, 29 CFR 1910.212, ANSI Z535, ANSI A13.1, ISO 7101, ISO 3864