Workplace health and safety hazards can be costly (to lives and the bottom line), but the good news is that they are largely preventable if you take the right precautions.
Common workplace health and safety hazards include: communicable disease, transportation accidents, workplace violence, slipping and falling, toxic events, particularly chemical and gas exposure, getting struck by objects, electrocution or explosion, repetitive motion and ergonomic injuries, and hearing loss. Although some hazards are less likely to happen in some work spaces than others, it’s important to assess which hazards are most damaging to your business and your employees.
The go-to resource for the legal requirements in your particular industry or state is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is urging employers to look at their risk factors and see where their problems are. While they aren’t usually budget-breakers, many precautions against hazards obviously have a higher initial cost, but as the old saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Maintaining continuity is extremely important when communicable diseases, such as colds and flu, knock out large portions of your workforce. Aside from giving employees more flexible sick leave, small businesses can also prepare for epidemics by testing whether employees have the infrastructure to work remotely by giving them access to VoIP and work email accounts from home. Also cross train employees so that no one person becomes critical to your operation.
Job hazard analysis and risk mapping are two prominent types of general preparation employers can take. The job hazard approach consists of stepping back and examining your procedures and facilities with new eyes unclouded by routine and alert to potential danger.
Risk mapping is a similar process but it involves examining liabilities by examining your physical workplace and facilities rather than considering the habits and duties of your employees.
Preventing fatalities and non-fatal injuries are integral to workplace safety. Although deaths at work are rare, most occur en route. Often overwork, sleep deprivation and cell phone usage are behind these deadly accidents. Policies dictating safe cell phone use can also help reduce accidents.
When it comes to non-fatal workplace injuries, the clear leaders are incidents of ergonomic problems and overexertion. They affect people in manufacturing, service, and office settings, and regulatory bodies are increasingly cracking down on employers who ignore their employees’ ergonomic needs.
The best way to avoid workplace injuries is employee education and awareness. A human resources department can do a lot to reduce workplace accidents simply by educating employees. Making sure your employees are current on what the local and seasonal threats are and passing out information doesn’t cost a lot; it could be as easy a monthly email.