4 Overlooked Workplace Safety Hazards and What You Can Do About It
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing that there were 2.8 million injuries in the workplace in 2018. On average, one worker-related injury can cost a company between $38,000 and $150,000. So, it’s no surprise that worker safety remains a top concern for companies everywhere.
In warehouses and manufacturing plants, the risk of injury is usually much higher than in other workplaces. From heavy boxes, complicated machinery, toxic chemicals, and more, there’s no shortage of hazards. So, it can be challenging trying to keep workers out of harm’s way. However, there are many measures you can take to mitigate the risk of injury. With proper employee training, robust safety protocols, and by eliminating unnecessary safety hazards, it’s possible to create a safer work environment.
While there are some obvious safety hazards, there are others that are often overlooked. Let’s talk about four of those overlooked workplace safety hazards and what you can do about them.
1. Spill and Slip Hazards
We hear a lot about spill and slip hazards, and there’s a good reason for it. Approximately 26% of all nonfatal work injuries are related to a slip, trip, or fall. In 2016 alone, falls resulted in a total of 702 fatalities in the workplace. However, way too many companies think that spill and slip reduction is as simple as promptly cleaning up spills.
The reality is that to reduce spill and slip hazards, you have to work on preventative measures, not just reactive ones. It starts with having proper flooring drainage to reduce the chance of pooling liquids. Depending on your industry, it could be necessary to have several drainage systems (i.e., one for the parking lot, one for the packaging area, and so on).
Beyond drainage, slipping hazards extend to uneven walkways, rickety stairs, and unsafe scaffolding. Dirty and dusty floors can also cause unnecessary slipping hazards. So, it’s important to identify the areas where slips can occur and remedy them. The National Safety Council says that workplace falls are 100% preventable. With a few proactive measures, you can significantly reduce falls.
2. Overworked Employees
To reduce costs, employees are often required to work long hours. While it might look good on a spreadsheet, overworked employees are terrible for safety. The National Sleep Foundation reports that sleepy workers are approximately 70% more likely to be involved in a workplace accident. Beyond that, the National Safety Council found that overexertion causes 35% of workplace injuries. So, one of the major hazards in workplaces is tired, overexerted, and overworked employees.
If possible, be sure your employees aren’t working too many hours. If reduced hours aren’t possible, ensure that breaks are encouraged. Oftentimes workplace injuries are workers’ faults. Oversight, improper training, or negligence are often blamed. However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll probably see that most of those instances involved an overworked employee.
3. Standing Clutter, Dust, and Chemicals
We talked a bit about how dust build-up on the floor can cause slipping, but clutter and dust can do more damage than that. Dust is a fire and explosive hazard. Standing clutter can cause tripping. Improperly stored chemicals can result in a range of issues.
Additionally, around 12% of warehouse workers will have serious lung-related injuries because of dust build-up in their workplace. It’s imperative that dust control and cleaning remain a top priority. Simple sweeping won’t do the trick. You must use industrial vacuums in your warehouse, because they are equipped to handle the needs of a warehouse environment.
It’s also smart to consider proactive measures like installing chemical resistant concrete, which ensures that the flooring isn’t easily damaged or absorbing toxic chemicals. Standard concrete floors absorb chemicals, trapping them in the floor and causing the flooring to breakdown faster. The key to fixing standing clutter, dust, and chemicals is to have proper cleaning equipment and routine cleaning protocols. If you set a standard of cleanliness, your employees will follow suit.
4. Improper Equipment Management
In 2019, OSHA included “unsafe machinery and inadequate machine guarding” as one of the top ten most frequently cited safety violations. There are numerous ways that equipment can be hazardous. For one, there are far too many employees operating equipment that they don’t know how to use. Machinery is necessary in warehouses and manufacturing, but It can be dangerous if workers don’t know how to operate it.
Additionally, to save on costs, equipment maintenance is put on hold. Failing to do proper maintenance can result in major malfunctions and disastrous injuries. Along the same lines, more companies put off buying new equipment even though their current equipment is no longer safe or operational.
To prevent this hazard, it’s important to ensure that only workers who are trained to use the equipment are using it. Secondly, it’s vital to perform regular equipment maintenance or purchase new models if your current one becomes unsafe to operate. Often, newer models come with newly added safety features, too.
Keep Workers Safe by Addressing Overlooked Hazards
Proactivity is critical to preventing injuries. To promote a safer working environment, you have to plan. Eliminating slipping hazards, reducing clutter, practicing proper equipment maintenance, and ensuring your employees aren’t overworked are four fantastic ways to create a safer working environment. While there will always be hazards in the workplace, you can take steps to mitigate the risks. These four areas are great places to start.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.
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