Accidental injury is the number three leading cause of death in the U.S. These accidents are preventable. The National Safety Council, and thousands of other organizations nationwide, observe June as National Safety Month to promote safer work environments by bringing attention to and reducing the leading causes of workplace injuries. This year, the NSC has chosen four safety topics to focus on each week: hazard recognition, slips, trips and falls, fatigue and impairment.
Hazard Recognition: The Danger of Second Nature Tasks
We all know about hazards and know to avoid them. Yet when we analyze data from Sospes, we see trends that suggest that even though we’re aware of hazards, we are not doing as much as we could to avoid them. Complacency and work procedures were identified as contributing to nearly one fourth of all close calls and injuries reported in our system during the last year. Of those incidents, the majority involve process situations that were acknowledged to have no preplanning or consisted of routine inspection or repair activities. This suggests that when we complete tasks that have become habitual, it causes us to lose focus and leaves room for mishaps. The mundane, everyday work tasks pose just as much risk as new ones. Many of us know our drive to work and may believe we could do it with our eyes close. We may take a few seconds to send a quick text. This short momentary distraction creates the opportunity for a big disaster. This is why experienced pilots who fly thousands of miles a year perform in-depth predeparture checks of the plane with their copilots. The same should apply to procedures in the workplace. Spending a few extra minutes before beginning a task may well provide a big safety dividend.
- Perform pre-shift safety planning and inspections.
- Train employees to recognize hazards and ensure they have proper certifications.
- Establish employee reporting systems so employees can express their safety concerns.
- Conduct periodic inspections of the workplace to identify new or existing hazards.
- Dedicate a few minutes at the end of the day or the week to tidy up to avoid “housekeeping” hazards, such as accumulated debris.
Slips, Trips, and Falls: Proactively Assessing the Risks
Construction and manufacturing industries have the two highest accidental injury and death rates from falls. There is no excuse for this; falls are 100% preventable. Whether working from a ladder, roof or scaffold, it’s important to assess risks prior to starting and use the proper equipment. Every year, OSHA organizes a national “Safety Stand Down” event for employers and employees to come together and talk about fall hazards. This is a great opportunity to hear from employees about their safety concerns when they are out in the field and find ways to prevent falls from happening.
- Provide proper equipment.
- Train employees to have a full understanding of their fall protection equipment and safety protocols.
- Ensure proper ladder safety: ladders should be on solid surfaces and be 1 foot away from the surface it rests on for every 4 feet of height and extend at least 3 feet over the top edge.
- Organize a company “Safety Stand Down”.
- Clean up spills to avoid slips.
- Clear unnecessary clutter around the workplace.
- Ensure proper lighting to improve visibility of possible hazards.
- Wear proper footwear.
Workplace injuries and deaths are preventable when the proper safety precautions are taken. We encourage you to reflect this month on the safety practices at your company and work to eliminate preventable injuries and deaths. Next week we will discuss the dangers of fatigue.