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Workplace Safety: Five Hazards Every Employer Should Know

Workplace safety is not an option, it’s a necessity. Yet, many employers remain unaware of some of the most common workplace hazards, putting their employees at risk. High standards of workplace safety help create a productive work environment, keep employees happy, protect the company’s most valuable asset (its employees), and build goodwill and brand value for the business. Here are five common workplace hazards that every employer should know:

Falls

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued clear guidelines related to working at heights with ladders and scaffolding, yet these are the most frequently identified violations during workplace audits. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor estimated that falls accounted for nearly 15 percent of fatalities. Every business should ensure that employees:

  • Receive a written procedure for fall protection
  • Understand how to correctly use fall protection gear
  • Wear the correct sized gear
  • Know all locations where fall protection measures are necessary

It may not be a bad idea for businesses to invest in a safety assessment by a professional. In addition, regular inspections can help identify damage, such as a weakened harness.

Electrocution

The National Safety Council lists blocked breakers and inappropriate use of extension cords as the most common electrical hazards in the workplace. Sagging power lines near the workplace may also pose a hazard. Employers should be aware that extension cords can be used temporarily, but when used for prolonged periods of time, it constitutes an OSHA violation. In addition, insulation on electrical cords on the floor may get worn out and become a shock hazard. Daisy-chaining of extension cords is a potential fire hazard. Employees should be trained to periodically inspect electrical cords for damage. Extension cords should be used temporarily when needed and then stored away at the end of the shift.

Machinery and Equipment

Improper use of machinery and equipment is one the leading causes of workplace accidents. Businesses that place undue pressure on employees to work quickly in order to increase productivity are actually putting their employees at grave risk. For example, forklift safety may be overlooked by overloading the forklift, driving too fast, or being distracted, resulting in an accident that injures not only the driver but also other coworkers. Employers should ensure all equipment and machinery operators are properly trained and regularly tested. All tools and machinery should be properly maintained and periodically checked for damage. It is also the employer’s responsibility to hire sufficient staff for a manageable workload.

Chemicals

Many businesses use hazardous chemicals on the shop floor. Sometimes, unused chemicals are stored by the hundreds on shelves, becoming unstable and potential explosion hazards. Employers should ensure an inventory is maintained to control the purchase and use of all chemicals. Each chemical’s expiration date should be on file, indicating when it should be disposed of. Employees should be properly trained to handle chemicals. OSHA offers a toolkit to employers and workers for transitioning to safer chemicals.

Ergonomics

Attention to ergonomics not only improves efficiency and increases productivity in the workplace, it also protects employees from sustaining injuries. Desks, chairs, and other furniture should be designed to relieve pressure and encourage correct posture. Ideally, furniture should be adjustable to suit users of different sizes. The user’s body weight should be distributed to align the spine and relieve pressure on the lower back. Employers should encourage desk-bound employees to take regular breaks to maintain alertness and prevent overuse injuries.

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Juhi Modi
Juhi Modi
JUHI is a freelance writer with varied interests and an enduring love for travel. When her fingers are not flying across a keyboard, she is likely traipsing in some distant corner of the world.

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