The 7 Most Common Work Hazards September 16, 2017
To assess what work conditions contribute the most to worker injuries, illnesses and deaths, the National Safety Council (NSC) sends safety consultants around the country to evaluate workplaces. The consultants found that seven workplace hazards are still far too common and continue to put workers at risk every day.
Falls, contact injuries from being struck by objects or equipment, exposure to chemicals and a lack of proper safety procedures are all common causes behind workplace injuries and fatalities. The NSC consultants found that workers are at a particularly high risk for injury when they are working at height (up high). It is important that industrial equipment has the proper safeguards in place; to prevent falls, this means having swing gates, railings and other types of fall protection. However, all too often workers are injured after falling because of inadequate guarding or weak or inadequate protective gear, such as safety harnesses.
Having an unclean, cluttered worksite can create a dangerous obstacle course for employees to navigate. Not only can cluttered workspaces create slip and fall hazards, but they can also prevent employees from being able to exit quickly in the case of an emergency. To prevent clutter from becoming dangerous, the safety consultants recommend that all workspaces are cleaned up at the end of each day or that employers hold weekly deep cleaning sessions.
“Daisy-chaining” is a term used to describe connecting multiple extension cords or power strips to one another. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) safety guidelines, it is only acceptable to use extension cords temporarily. If they are used longer-term, OSHA considers them to be recognizable fall hazards. “Daisy-chaining” can also result in shock and fire hazards; they can either take in too much electricity from surrounding circuits and overheat, or can become damaged over time and expose workers to electric shock. If an employer is using an extension cord temporarily, it is important to unplug and store it each night as well as to inspect it before use.
Machines are safeguarded with lockout/tagout procedures, which are in place to protect employees from machinery unexpectedly powering up or releasing hazardous energy while being serviced. Although lockout/tagout procedures can be highly effective at preventing injuries, the NSC consultants observed several common and dangerous failures. Often, the failure of an employer to provide adequate procedural training results in the increased likelihood of an accident or injury. To combat this, employers need to provide comprehensive lockout/tagout training and ensure that all equipment has been thoroughly inspected.
Forklift accidents account for a large portion of all workplace accidents that occur. As with other types of driving, distraction is the number one culprit behind accidents that result in injuries and fatalities. As with all other industrial equipment, it is critical that employers ensure it has been inspected, is in compliance with federal safety regulations and is safe to operate. Other common factors behind accidents include not having forklift-designated lanes to avoid pedestrians, operators rushing to get work done or driving the forklift with too heavy of a load.
Work in confined spaces can result in deadly consequences. In order to enter confined spaces such as drains, employers need to have permits. The NSC consultants noted that many times, employers fail to obtain permits and unprepared workers end up in unexpected – and dangerous – situations. It is best for employers to create a plan for any work in confined spaces, and to ensure that the proper training is in place.
The most dangerous part about having chemicals in the workplace is when old, partially used bottles begin to accumulate. Although it may not seem dangerous to have one or two sitting around, over time many chemicals can become unstable and even potentially explosive. OSHA requires that employers keep a log of all chemical products, as well as each one’s expiration date. Because chemicals can be inherently dangerous, promoting safe handling techniques can also help to decrease injuries.
While these are the seven most common workplace hazards identified by the NSC safety consultants, workplaces can be dangerous in many other ways as well. According to the consultants, there are four main ways employers can strive to make a workplace safer:
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): when PPE is necessary, employers need to provide the right type and size, as well as to train workers on how to properly use and remove it – it also needs to be taken care of and stored correctly;
- Training: safety training is crucial and varies depending on a worker’s responsibilities and role. Training needs to include occupational safety, health and hazard recognition. Supervisors should always monitor workers to make sure they’re acting according to their training;
- Culture: Supervisors need to be role models for employees and should ensure that workers are comfortable reporting hazards and do so without fear of retaliation. It is important for workers to know that management takes their safety seriously, and:
- Resources: Employers need to invest in the proper PPE for workers as well as taking part in relevant safety training. There are even free safety resources that employers can take advantage of, such as certain training sessions offered through OSHA.
To read more about what employers can do to keep workers safe and common workplace dangers, please click here: https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/14054-common-workplace-safety-hazards.
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