Workplace Safety Mistakes
| Do the Right Thing | Common Workplace Safety Mistakes
Mistakes happen. However in the workplace, mistakes can be dangerous to your health and safety. Below are some common workplace mistakes that can lead to injuries and accidents. By familiarizing yourself with these common mistakes, you can take corrective action before an accident occurs and avoid getting hurt.
7 Common Safety Mistakes in the Workplace
- Cutting Corners: When companies and employees cut corners to expedite processes or training, it can lead to tragic mistakes. Take the time to plan out safe procedures and effective safety controls, and then follow through with proper implementation. Don’t let pressures to complete tasks quickly outweigh your commitment to your own safety and health.
- Overlooking Close Calls: Near misses can provide a wealth of information about potential accidents in the workplace. When faced with a close call, ensure you discuss the incident with your management and co-workers, and find/implement effective controls to avoid the situation from occurring in the future.
- Improper Use of Tools and Equipment: In order to help avoid unexpected hazards on the job, ensure tools and equipment have been properly inspected and maintained prior to use. Don’t use any tools or equipment that aren’t functioning properly or that show signs of damage. Always use the proper tool designed for the job at hand.
- Ignoring Slip and Fall Hazards: Slips and falls are leading causes of workplace injuries. To help avoid this hazard, keep aisles and walkways clear of debris, boxes, cords, and unnecessary items. Use non-slip rugs and hazard signs in slippery areas. Clean up spills quickly.
- Missing or Improper Personal Protective Equipment: Always use properly fitting, well maintained PPE to provide the right level of protection for the task. Don’t make excuses to justify not using the needed PPE.
- Being Unaware of Your Surroundings: It’s easy to become laser focused on a task and forget about your surroundings. Make sure you’re aware of the equipment hazards in your work area and other potential dangers. Look out for items that could fall from above and situations where you could get caught-in equipment.
- Not Knowing Your Limits: Overexertion commonly leads to serious workplace injuries. Don’t try to lift objects that are too heavy to handle. Take breaks from repetitive activities to stretch and rest your muscles. Follow ergonomic best practices for your type of job. Know what you can handle and don’t push yourself beyond your limits.
By avoiding common workplace mistakes, you can improve your safety on the job. It just takes one accident to negatively impact the rest of your life, so a little prevention is worth your effort.
| When the Dust Settles | Occupational Lead Exposure
Occupational lead exposure can occur in most industries, including transportation, construction, and manufacturing. OSHA estimates that approximately 838,000 workers in construction and 804,000 workers in general industry are potentially exposed to lead. This lead exposure typically happens during the use, production, maintenance, recycling, and disposal of lead products and materials.
Lead exposure often occurs through the unintentional inhalation of lead dust or fumes in the workplace. Also, lead dust on contaminated hands, clothes and other surfaces can easily be transferred and ingested as a worker eats, drinks or smokes.
Workers exposed to lead may feel perfectly healthy and my not realize they are in danger. However lead accumulates in the body over time and the exposures can cause irreversible neurological and gastrointestinal damage, kidney disease, anemia, and more.
Though OSHA requires construction and general industry employers to protect workers from harmful lead exposure, workers should be aware of possible early symptoms of lead overexposure and seek medical attention if they are concerned. Early symptoms may include:
- Stomach cramps or aches
- Muscle pain
- Joint Pain
- Difficulty concentrating
It’s important for workers to know that lead dust can settle on your hands, hair, and clothes without your knowledge. There are several easy ways to help protect yourself from lead exposure:
- Talk to your employer to ensure they have taken the needed steps to prevent lead overexposure. Where applicable, ensure your company is testing the air and worker blood-levels to monitor the hazard level.
- Eat, drink, and smoke only in areas where lead dust and fumes would not be present. Wash your hands prior to eating, drinking, or smoking.
- Shower and change clothes and shoes at work, prior to going home, if possible.
- Keep work clothes and personal clothes separated. Leave your work clothes at work and have them washed there. Keep clean clothes in an area where they won’t be contaminated.
- Use the proper protective clothing and equipment when needed to prevent lead exposure.
- Use the proper methods to remove lead dust from work areas in order to avoid broadcasting the dust further.
For more information on protecting yourself from lead exposure, see OSHA’s Lead Safety and Health Topic. We also offer a 100% Online Lead Awareness for General Industry Course which can be taken as Initial or Refresher training.
Natural Disaster Preparation
| Know the Drill | Workplace Safety for Natural Disasters
A natural disaster could strike at any time, including while you’re at work. Every year, thousands of workplaces are affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and earthquakes. While you can’t prevent all natural disasters, you can be prepared when one occurs.
Per OSHA, companies with 10 or more employees need to have a written emergency action place (EAP) that provides employer and employee actions to be taken during an emergency. However just having a workplace emergency action plan is not enough to help keep you safe. Employees should think through all the possible emergency situations that could happen in the workplace and make sure you’re prepared to protect yourself in those situations.
There are many actions that employees can take to prepare in advance for a natural disaster:
- Ensure you’re fully aware of your company’s emergency action plan, including actions to be taken in an emergency, evacuation procedures, and chain of command. If the plan is lacking in any areas, bring your concerns to the attention of management.
- Know where the closest exits are at all times and know several routes that can be taken to evacuate in case certain exits are unusable. Know your company designated evacuation meeting place.
- Ensure you have access to the equipment you’d need to keep yourself safe during all different types of emergencies.
- Prepare an emergency kit for the workplace, including at least three days of non-perishable food, water, flashlights, batteries, a first aid kit, a radio, tools, and more.
- Practice the emergency action plan, so that plan weaknesses can be identified and fixed before an emergency occurs. Company drills conducted without notice and at various times can be helpful in testing the effectiveness of emergency action plans.
- Have an emergency communication plan in place and have important phone numbers memorized.
- If a disaster occurs, be aware of potential new hazards that may have been created, such as chemical spills, downed electrical lines, structure stability, fire, etc.
Though natural disasters can happen at any time, advance planning can help you be as prepared as possible and increase your workplace safety. There are many free emergency preparedness resources available online, including valuable information provided at Ready.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sprains and Strains
| By Any Stretch | Occupational Sprains and Strains
Strains and sprains are among the most common causes of workplace injury. A sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament, which is the connective tissue between bones. A strain is a stretch or tear in a muscle or tendon connecting muscles to bone. These injuries can be quite painful and often require lengthy recovery time.
Workplace sprains and strains commonly occur in a person’s back, arms, or shoulders and can develop in an instant or slowly over time. Work activities that fall into the following categories increase a worker’s risk for sprains and strains:
- Tasks requiring excessive force, which may include lifting, pushing, or reaching;
- Tasks that are highly repetitive;
- Tasks that involve awkward postures or twisting a part of the body;
- Tasks that require standing or sitting for long periods;
- Any slip and fall accident on the job.
The good news is that sprains and strains are preventable. Below are some tips to help you reduce your injury risk:
- When faced with moving or lifting heavy loads, use mechanical devices or get help from another worker to lighten your load.
- Lift with your legs, not with your back. Lift slowly and avoid twisting while lifting.
- Carry items close to your body, near waist level.
- Use ergonomic best practices to reduce risks from body positioning.
- Take frequent breaks to stretch and change work position.
- Identify and eliminate awkward work positions.
- Be aware of your surroundings and quickly address slip and fall hazards in the workplace.
Create a safe and healthy work environment by focusing on injury prevention. With a few simple changes, you can avoid sprains and strains on the job. For more information and tips, see OSHA’s webpage on Ergonomics. We also offer a 100% Online Back Safety in the Workplace course which provides training on back injury prevention.
| Beneath the Surface | Alarming Rise in Trench Accidents
23 construction workers died in trench collapses in 2016, which exceeded the total number of trench-related construction deaths from 2014 and 2015 combined. In response, the Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program has issued a hazard alert including the following recommendations to help keep trench workers safe:
- Inspect trenches before each work shift, as well as after rain and other incidents that may increase the hazard level. The inspection should be performed by a competent person.
- Trenches between 5 and 20 feet deep must use protective measures such as benching, shoring, sloping, and shielding. For trenches over 20 feet deep, a professional registered engineer needs to design the protective system.
- Excavated soil and other materials need to be kept at least 2 feet from trench edges.
- Workers need to be trained on recognizing tension cracks, bulging, toppling and other signs of imminent trench collapse.
- Ensure there is a safe method to exit the trench within 25 feet of the workers.
Many workers mistakenly believe they would be able to escape a trench collapse if it happened to them. Consider that just one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, per the mentioned hazard alert. The intense weight of soil can quickly overcome a worker’s ability to move, which may lead to tragedy. Through the right training and proper trench work procedures, these accidents can be prevented and avoided.
For additional information on trench safety, see OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation webpage and the OSHA Fact Sheet on the topic.