Did you know that over 2 million people die due to workplace accidents every year? If that isn’t startling enough, as of 2016, it is reported that an American worker is injured every seven seconds. That’s over 12,900 workers per day. It can be pretty scary, especially with the amount of time that employees spend at their jobs.
The issue is that many people take safety for granted and many employers don’t think about potential dangers in the workplace until after an incident has occurred. That is why it is so important to promote a safe working environment through proactive guidance and comprehensive employee training programs.
Here we will walk you through some common workplace injuries, how you can promote a safe environment, and how you can make a difference as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist.
Common Workplace Incidents
To fully understand how to advocate for safety in the workplace, you must first understand the most common workplace incidents and how you can avoid them. In many cases, employees need to be aware of different hazards specific to their work environment, however, some injuries are common to all workplaces and ways to mitigate them from happening:
- Slips — Keep the floors clean and promptly remove any spilled liquids while placing cautionary signage until it is safe.
- Trips — With office equipment comes many loose wires. Keep them out of the way, close any open drawers, and keep feet under desks.
- Falls — Ensure that all hallways and stairwells are well lit and that all flooring is properly installed. Also, encourage all employees to wear proper footwear.
Another one of the most common workplace accidents involves overexertion. Employees who lift too much and carry, push, and pull heavy objects can be susceptible to paralyzing back injuries. If a particular job requires workers to move heavy objects or engage in repetitive lifting, then the company must teach proper lifting techniques and obtain the safety gear necessary to avoid these injuries.
Many people might think that working indoors in an office environment will not lead to accidents, but being ignorant of workplace dangers can only cause more issues. Sitting in one position while doing a repetitive activity can lead to problems including carpal tunnel, eye strain, and neck and back issues, especially if your workspace does not fit your body.
To be ergonomically correct, your chair should allow your feet to be flat on the ground with your thighs horizontal to the floor. The computer monitor should be set up so that the top of the screen is at eye level and the keyboard should be positioned so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
A lot of workplace incidents can also be tied to stress and exhaustion. To make sure that workers feel refreshed and alert, enforce regular break times twice per shift, paired with a 30-minute lunch away from their desk. Employees should not work on their lunch and should take the time to stand, stretch, and have a healthy meal to re-energize.
Keys to a Safe Workplace
While there are always steps that companies can take to limit the number of workplace accidents that can occur, little fixes will not solve the overall problem. Instead, a company must actively promote and understand safety. So what can a company do to ensure the safety of all of its employees?
Developing a culture of safety means being open with the staff about potential hazards, so everyone looks out for each other. Start by offering proper workplace training classes where management discusses the potential dangers, including the most obvious issues such as properly navigating wet floors and avoiding falling objects. To supplement the meetings, create posters that encourage safety and hang them in common areas around the office.
Things are always changing at the workplace, so make it a point to have regular meetings where you perform risk assessments to identify new potential hazards. Make all safety precautions and then document your findings, so there is a record of what is being done to ensure employee safety.
Every company must be familiar with the guidelines provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which offers guidelines on everything from illness prevention programs to the proper filing of workplace accident reports.
All About Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is the insurance that employers must have to provide wage replacement and medical benefits to those who are injured on the job. Because of its importance, employers and their employees must know how the system works so all workplace injuries can be handled properly.
There are several forms of workers’ compensation, including temporary and permanent disability.
- Temporary workers’ comp claims are typically for employees who take a leave due to injury but are expected to return to work. If a request is approved, the employee would get a salary and medical bill reimbursement while they are out. Then, when they are well again, they can return to their regular duties.
- Employees may also be eligible for permanent partial disability, which means that the worker is hurt in such a way that they cannot perform their work at their full potential and may only be able to get lower-paying jobs for the remainder of their life. In any case, the settlement or payment terms are decided by the insurance company.
There are some drawbacks to workers’ compensation. If an employee takes advantage of this program, they then forfeit their rights to sue the company afterward for any reason related to the accident. Also, if an employee accepts a lump sum payment, they then forfeit the option to get regular payments or compensation for future medical treatments.
In the end, it is highly beneficial to have safety protocols in place so everyone at the job can work in peace without having to worry about these options.
A Career as a Safety Specialist
If workplace safety is something that interests you, then consider a career as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist. Those interested in this type of job can find a good fit working for an organization like OSHA or within a company’s HR department. This position involves inspecting businesses to ensure that workers are protected and that all safety guidelines are followed. In many cases, these specialists will use the data they obtain to design new programs that can bring awareness to a particular industry.
The average day for a safety specialist involves examining all facets of the workplace including tools, machinery, and current procedures to ensure that they meet government standards. The job may also include gathering samples of suspicious materials to test for toxicity. If issues are found, the safety specialist would also launch investigations to determine the cause and create necessary preventive measures.
For this position, employees are not sitting in an office all day. Instead, they are dispatched to businesses within their jurisdiction. To properly complete the job, the specialist must have a vast knowledge of all necessary government regulations and procedures and be able to educate employers about these policies. Most importantly, to weed out workplace hazards, you must have deductive reasoning skills, attention to detail, and problem sensitivity.
Overall, working as a safety specialist is a very secure career because businesses want to protect their employees and that is a fact that is unlikely to change. Also, as the workforce grows older, senior workers will face issues with eyesight, hearing, and disability factors, so, for them, the role of safety specialist is more important than ever.
There are very few aspects of the working world as important as safety. Every employee deserves the right to go to work and return home to their families safe and sound. Those who advocate for safety in the workplace can make this happen.