Keeping the workplace safe is crucial for the safety of the employees and the overall organization. When you think of workplace hazards, you might think of only dangerous jobs such as construction, heavy operating machinery, etc. However, people working normal office jobs can also risk experiencing a workplace hazard.
What is workplace safety, and why is it important?
Workplace safety includes all the factors in a working environment that can affect employees’ well-being, safety, and health. It includes implementing measures to help limit factors that may cause personal injury, accidents, or other negative outcomes. It can be done by implementing policies that ensure the safety of the employees.
Although the primary objective of workplace safety is to keep the employees safe, it is also important for other reasons. For instance, it enhances employee retention. When employees see that their employer cares for their well-being, it helps them feel safe and appreciated. So, they stay longer within the organization.
Similarly, working in a safe environment increases the employees’ productivity and helps them do their best. On the other hand, from the company’s perspective, workplace safety helps cut down expenses. For instance, employers had to pay $ 1 billion per week as compensation for workplace-related injuries in 2018. Hence, maintaining workplace safety can help cut down these costs. A safe working environment also boosts a company’s reputation, attracting skilled workers.
The increasing awareness regarding the importance of workplace safety has increased the demand for the health and safety field. Jobs in this field pay well and offer better employment opportunities. Moreover, you can easily get an online health and safety degree from a reputable institute if a career in this field interests you.
Getting this degree can enable you to work in various industries and projects. This degree can enable you to work on active work sites and identify and prevent hazards. It can help provide safety training, create safety guidelines, and more.
Common workplace hazards
By now, you might have realized the importance of maintaining workplace safety. So, here is a list of common workplace hazards to look out for that might be hiding in plain sight.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reported that slips, trips, and falls account for 20% of workplace injuries. Moreover, they can cost employers up to $40000.
Injuries from falls, slips, and trips can be caused by wet floors, uneven floors or surfaces, and loose wires or cables. Such injuries are quite common in workplaces and can cost employers a lot too. However, all this can be avoided with the help of effective workplace safety precautions.
Simple steps to prevent such injuries include:
- Cleaning up any spill as soon as possible.
- Fixing uneven steps, floors, and surfaces.
- Keeping the workplace clear and free of obstacles.
- Improving the lighting.
- Encouraging workers to wear slip-resistant shoes.
Working in restricted spaces
Enclosed spaces, such as drains, sewers, ducts, and tanks, are often dangerous locations for working. Moreover, welding, painting, or using chemicals in places with poor ventilation can be harmful and lead to suffocation.
Working in such spaces can be harmful in several other ways too. It can cause a lack of oxygen, carbon monoxide poisoning, explosions, and suffocation or difficulty breathing due to hot environments.
However, these hazards can be reduced with the help of the following tips:
- Avoid working in small or restricted spaces.
- Ensure that the areas have proper ventilation.
- Ensure that flammable chemicals are disposed of properly.
- Arrange emergency exits.
- Provide proper training to employees.
Exposure to harmful chemicals
There are several chemical hazards in workplaces. These include solvents, cleaning solutions, chemical fumes, carbon monoxide, gasoline, etc. Moreover, the most common way for these chemicals to infiltrate your body is through contaminated air. Chemical exposure can cause several injuries, such as burns, skin irritation, eye irritation or injuries, and, worst cases, blindness.
These hazards can be prevented by implementing the following safety measures:
- Read the labels of a chemical before working so you know what you’re dealing with.
- Strictly follow directions of use and precautions. Avoid using the chemical if you do not understand how to use it.
- Dispose of chemicals properly.
- Employees should wear masks or other appropriate equipment while dealing with dangerous chemicals.
- Ensure that the working space has proper ventilation.
- Wash hands regularly.
Exposure to biological hazards
Biological hazards include blood, bodily fluids, viruses, bacteria, bird droppings, insect bites, plants, etc. People working in the healthcare industry, laboratories, forestry, and agriculture have a higher risk of coming in contact with biological hazards.
These biological hazards can result in severe illnesses mostly contracted through physical contact like touching, sneezing, and coughing.
Some ways to avoid biological hazards include:
- Maintain personal hygiene and cleanliness.
- Wash hands regularly.
- Wear gloves, masks, or other safety equipment if necessary.
- Stay up-to-date on vaccinations.
- Clean and disinfect the workplace properly.
- Dispose of bio-hazardous materials safely.
Asbestos is a toxic material used for several purposes, such as construction in the previous century. Exposure to this material can cause severe illnesses, including a type of cancer known as mesothelioma.
Although the use of asbestos was stopped after realizing its dangers, it is still present in our surroundings, such as old buildings. So, people working in the presence of asbestos are more at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses.
Some ways to prevent asbestos exposure are:
- Avoid disturbing any area where asbestos has been used
- , and wear safety equipment such as masks.
Most physical hazards may come to mind when you think of workplace hazards. However, a hazard that is often overlooked is workplace harassment. It included actions that may threaten, abuse, or discriminate between employees.
Workplace harassment is often targeted toward a specific group based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and more. It may include acts of physical, verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse. Moreover, it can result in physical and mental health issues and affect employee performance.
Nearly 3 in 4 workplace harassment cases go unreported. It shows the severity of the issue. So, it is important to take steps that can help prevent workplace harassment, such as:
- Creating and implementing anti-harassment policies.
- Taking strict action against people engaging in harassment.
- Spreading awareness and educating employees.
Workplace safety is crucial for ensuring the well-being of employees and the organization. Maintaining workplace safety includes actions that control or prevent factors that may result in accidents and personal injury. Some common workplace hazards include falls, chemical and biological hazards, asbestos exposure, and more.
Workplace safety is important for many reasons. It enhances employee retention, boosts productivity, saves money, and enhances the company’s reputation. Moreover, health and safety is an in-demand career that can open doors to many opportunities.