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19 Workplace Safety Tips for All OHS Professionals

2020 is here! How is your New Year’s resolution list going?

They say breaking down ambitious goals into small, actionable items is an effective strategy to accomplish them. In the world of health and safety, small actions such as displaying a warning sign or cleaning a dirty floor factory can have a significant impact on reducing the number of workplace incidents.

If your 2020 objective is to reduce the number of work-related injuries, here is a list of bite-sized best practices to remember for the upcoming year.

1.       Educate on health & safety risks

Educate workers on identifying and controlling potential hazards is crucial when it comes to building a culture of safety within your organization. If employees engage in safety-conscious behavior, they can regulate their own safety and that of their teammates more effectively and consistently.

2.       Wear PPE to suit the task

Overspecifying or underspecifying protective equipment for a given application can affect or even cancel out its protective abilities. PPE, whether it’s hand gloves or firefighter turnout gear, is specifically designed to offer protection for varying types of risk, in various scenarios. And fortunately, there are task-specific products to pick from - take our new Coreshield safety gloves, designed for every level of cut risk.

3.       Keep workspaces clutter-free

Housekeeping, namely keeping work areas neatly organized, helps control and sometimes eliminate workplace incidents such as slip-and-trip accidents or being struck by falling objects. These are two very common workplace hazards.

4.       Report violations and unsafe conditions

Everyone has the right to work in a safe environment. But truly exceptional safety happens when people go beyond the call of duty - to report hazards, as well as give feedback on unsafe behavior, and make recommendations for improvement.

5.       Store chemicals properly

Handling and storing of chemicals properly requires diligence. But before rounding up bottles of chemicals, workers need PPE designed to withstand dangerous chemicals, such as chemical-resistant gloves, eye protection and emergency eyewash stations. Labeling all chemical containers and providing them with adequate storage spaces is, of course, another essential part of keeping disasters at bay.

6.       Ensure proper training for new equipment

Everyone using equipment at work should be trained with regards to methods, risks, and precautions to consider when using new machinery. Furthermore, multiple training programs, each designed to address a different risk, help workers continuously improve on all aspects of health, safety, and environment.

7.       Train new hires

New employees are at a higher risk of injury than established ones, according to HSE. So, prioritize and optimize new hire safety, including that of seasonal workers. Training materials and in-class documentation are a great first step to help inexperienced workers adapt to the organization’s culture of safety and stay safe from day one.

8.       Provide first aid training

Don’t overlook first aid and CPR training, a potentially life-saving skillset all employees you have access to. Administering life-saving medical treatments and staying calm during an emergency is especially valuable when working alone.

9.       Stay hydrated

Work under the scorching sun can be unbearable and potentially life-threatening. Heat hazards such as heat-induced illnesses, heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat strokes are quite common in construction work, oil and gas operations, and emergency response operations. More tips to beat the heat in 2020, here.

10.   Take regular breaks

Long working hours, night shifts, time-consuming commutes, and sleep disorders reduce a person’s ability to perform his/her job safely and effectively. Workplace fatigue translates to $136 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year. So, prioritize rest. Read our article on tips to reduce worker fatigue.

11.   Introduce toolbox talks

Toolbox talks are a short, yet effective way to get your team talking about workplace hazards prior to a work shift. Keep it straightforward and simple, focus on only a few key points. Ten minutes per day will keep workers alert, improve team communication and remind them of their duties.

12.   Treat all electrical circuits as live

Electrocutions accounted for all but one of the workplace electrical fatalities. And mishandled energized equipment remains a top cause for all electrical incidents. So, keep in mind to treat electrical circuits as live before performing any electrical work. Here is how OSHA recommends de-energizing circuits.

13.   Encourage a correct posture

There were 308,000 cases involving sprains, strains and tears in 2018, statistics show. Manual handling of heavy equipment, tiring positions and repetitive tasks are the main causes of musculoskeletal disorders. Remember to educate workers on the importance of a correct posture.

14.   Keep emergency exits clear

Don’t clutter exit paths and report any obstructions to your supervisor. A blocked or partially blocked fire escape route can prove a real impediment for timely and safe evacuation.

15.   Make regular inspections

Regular safety inspections are essential in maintaining a high-performing safety culture. They help identify potential hazards to prevent workplace accidents and illnesses. Schedule and carry inspections at regular intervals to make sure patterns or trends are identified before anything bad happens.

16.   Switch to safety leading indicators

The construction industry has long evaluated safety performance based on past failures. To gauge the effectiveness of your safety program, you need more than a rear-view mirror look. Review lagging as well as safety leading indicators. Companies that engage in leading indicator use are, statistically, considerably safer than their peers, this report says.

17.   Clean and maintain PPE

The effectiveness and proper functioning of PPE also depend on how well it is cleaned and maintained. Newer regulations impose stricter cleaning cycles. For instance, NPFA 1851 now requires fire departments to conduct two ­­­­advanced cleanings each year, and whenever gear is exposed to fire gases and smoke particulates. That’s because PPE contaminated with soot and toxic chemicals exposes firefighters to carcinogens.

18.   Stay up to date with industry standards

Compliance is a hot topic for any safety manager, so make a habit to regularly visit sites for updated standards, subscribe to newsletters, participate in seminars and webinars or better yet, designate a compliance officer. Don’t forget to inform all the staff on the new legal requirements and refresh their knowledge, too.

19.   Stay alert and aware of your surroundings

Distractions, such as your mobile phone, make it very difficult to stay aware of your surroundings. Be present and focus on the task at hand to avoid the risk of injury.

Have a safe and productive new year, everyone!

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Alexandra Serban
Content Marketing Specialist
Alexandra Serban is the Content Marketing Specialist for Honeywell Industrial Safety. A seasoned writer and digital storyteller, she is learning and reporting on industrial safety news, trends and products.