By Hiram Cohen
Safety Knowledge Saves Lives
Lets be honest, workplace safety is your job. And it’s your responsibility. Yes, the employer has a duty to help keep you safe at work, but you’re ultimately responsible for looking after you.
This article was written to provide you with valuable safety insights and information to help you be better able to do just that. So, work hard, be safe, live long and prosper.
1,000,000 Canadians Are Injured Or Diseased By Workplaces Each Year
Approximately one million Canadians are injured or become sick or diseased by their workplace each year. Of those injuries and illnesses, ninety five percent are preventable. Factoring in direct and indirect costs, the total annual costs of workplace injuries and fatalities to the Canadian economy is conservatively estimated to be more than $19 billion annually.
60,000 Canadian Workers Are Injured Each Year
Approximately 60,000 Canadian workers are injured each year just by slips, trips or falls alone. In fact, falls are a major cause of workplace injury. These preventable accidents usually result in bruises and abrasions, broken limbs, cracked ribs, serious back and head injuries. Tragically, sometimes they even result in death. The cost to the public healthcare system from workplace injuries is enormous and the time off the job causes already stressed out employers additional stress.
Most Falls Occur On The Same Level
And while the image of a falling worker is generally someone tumbling from some type of elevation, the truth is that most falls occur on the same level. In fact, “same level falls” account for sixty five percent of all fall-related injuries, and about twenty percent of all workplace injuries.
Age Is A Factor In Injury Rates And Severity
Age can also play a factor in injury rates and severity. Statistically, young people and new hires are more at risk of injury on the job. Among employees injured under the age of 25, more than fifty percent were hurt within the first six months on the job. And, nearly twenty percent of all workplace injuries and fatalities happen within the first thirty days on the job.
While young workers are known to have more injuries in the workplace, when older workers are injured, it tends to be more serious. And injury severity and rate are also affected by the person’s sex. While men were more likely to die from a workplace injury, women were much more likely to require emergency medical attention.
Occupation Is A Significant Injury Factor
Occupation also seems to play a significant factor in injuries as well. For instance; statistically women who work in the healthcare sector are three to four times more likely to incur a serious injury when compared with men who work in the same industry. In fairness, a reason so many more female healthcare workers get injured than males is that far more females work in that industry than men. Still, much more needs to be done to keep these incredibly important workers safe on the job.
Preventing Personal Harm
A great way to begin preventing personal harm is to make yourself aware of the parts of the body that are most commonly injured. They are the: Eyes, Ears, Lungs, Hands, Feet, Legs, Spine, Head, Bones and Skin.
Another great way to prevent injury is to make it a habit to assess every job site for possible hazards before entering a work area. Always keep in mind that unseen obstacles or slippery surfaces may be present and may dramatically increase risk of injury.
This information is general in nature because there are great many ways of becoming hurt and once a person’s hurt, there’s a greater likelihood of re-injury or another injury.
Workplace Hazards To Watch For
There are five basic types of workplace injury hazards. They are:
- 1. Chemical hazards
- 2. Physical hazards
- 3. Biological hazards
- 4. Muscle strain or musculoskeletal injury hazards
- 5. Psycho-social hazards
10 Important Workplace Safety Questions To Ask
There are ten important workplace safety questions that you should ask when starting a job. They are:
- 1. What are the hazards of the job?
- 2. What are the company’s health and safety rules and regulations?
- 3. What job safety and workplace hazardous materials information system (WHMIS) training is provided?
- 4. Is there a safety and health committee, or a worker representative at the job site? Where is the safety and health bulletin board located?
- 5. Do you need to wear safety gear and if so, when will you be shown what to use and how to use it?
- 6. When will you be trained in emergency procedures?
- 7. Where’s the emergency and first aid equipment located?
- 8. Who do you ask a health or safety question to?
- 9. What are your safety and health responsibilities?
- 10. What do you do if you get hurt?
Workplace Safety Is An Attitude
Workplace safety is more than a protective measure, it’s an attitude. Taking ‘shortcuts’, (being over-confident and/or becoming impatient at work) are major causes of injury. Bypassing steps and disregarding procedures thinking that it ‘can’t happen to me’ and rushing to get things done are taking unnecessary risks that endanger your life and possibly the lives of others. So, slow down, be sure and be safe.
Use the acronym “SAFE” to help you remember what to do, which stands for; “S” – spot the hazard, “A” – assess the risk, “F” – find a safer way, and “E” – employ safe practices.
Use Personal Protective Equipment
Be sure to use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. Personal protective equipment is designed to protect workers from workplace hazards. PPE includes, but isn’t limited to, safety glasses, goggles, face shields, respirators, hard hats, safety shoes, gloves, coveralls, vests, earplugs, safety straps and anchoring lines. Be sure you not only have the right safety equipment and know how to use it, but also when to use it. For instance, people often remove hard hats and reflective vests before leaving the job site, but the protective gear should always be worn until the worksite is exited.
Poor Footwear Common Workplace Injury Factor
The most common contributing factor to workplace injury is poor footwear. Always use footwear with good traction in your personal life and at work and be sure to choose footwear that’s appropriate for the work being performed (for example, do not wear high heels when climbing ladders, or running shoes to work in mud). Throw out old and worn footwear to protect yourself.
Protect Your Head!
One of the most important things that you can do to protect yourself everywhere, especially at work, is to protect your head from injury. Unlike a broken arm or leg, which normally heals in a matter of weeks, just one blow to your brain could leave you unable to return to work for a very long time, even permanent disability.
To protect the head, wear proper head protection that’s appropriate for the job or activity. The two most common types of workplace helmets used to protect heads are: Type 1 – full brim (the brim fully encircles the dome of the hat) – which provides protection strictly from blows to the top of the head. Type 2 – no encircling brim, but may have a short bill on the front – provides protection from blows to both the top and sides of the head. Below are common helmet designations and classes according to the ANSI standard under which they were approved.
- For Impact and Low Voltage electrical protection: ANSI Z89.1-1986 Class A, or ANSI Z89.1-1997 and 2003 Class G (General)
- For Impact and High Voltage electrical protection: ANSI Z89.1-1986 Class A, or ANSI Z89.1-1997 and 2003 Class E (Electrical)
- For Impact protection only: ANSI Z89.1-1986 Class C, or ANSI Z89.1-1997 and 2003 Class C (Conductive)
Despite the use of protective gear and awesome company safety policies and aggressive accident reduction measures, many workplace injuries still occur because employees simply do not pay attention. This lack of attention causes workers to walk into obstacles, slip on wet floors, trip over clutter and stumble on irregular walking surfaces.
These types of workplace injuries can easily be prevented through safety education, awareness and preparation. So, always look, listen, smell and feel when entering a job site.
Potential Workplace Dangers
To reduce risk of injury, make yourself aware of all potential workplace dangers, such as:
Impaired or obstructed vision is extremely dangerous. Make sure you have a clear line of site around the work area where possible, and constantly watch for potential danger.
Ensure good visibility; replace burned-out bulbs.
Changes To Elevations
Even a slight difference in surface elevation can cause possible imbalance and present a trip hazard.
Make sure work areas are well ventilated, and that there are no present noxious fumes to cause a loss of consciousness, or compromised balance and ability. Also be aware of risks posed by lead paints and/or asbestos.
A common cause of workplace head injuries are elevated protruding or hanging objects people can striking their head on. Stay very aware of dangers to the head.
Clean up spills immediately using appropriate clean-up procedures. If the spill is toxic, follow safety procedures recommended in the material’s safety data sheet.
Always be cautious when using heat or fire of any kind on the job site. Each year many workplace injuries occur from hot exhaust airflow, equipment surfaces, scalding fluids and open flame. Be sure all dangers from heat sources are clearly labelled and identified, always use proper protection equipment, and do not place potentially combustible matter near heat sources. Make sure that worksite clothing is flame retardant.
Put salt or sand on ice and snow.
Use only non-slip mats in excellent condition.
Always be ultra careful on wet and slippery surfaces. Place warning signs to identify areas of risk, and make people aware of the possible danger.
Use protective equipment and extreme caution when handling broken glass, blades, knives and other sharp objects. Dispose of in a container with hard walls that cannot be punctured by the sharp broken pieces.
Keep work areas organized and clutter free. Make sure that all trash and scrap materials are cleaned up and are disposed of in proper containers.
Excessive noise may inhibit communication, and present immediate and long term danger. Always adequately protect your hearing, and stay very aware of the work area.
Make sure there are no cords running through fluids, bare or exposed wires, and that all cords are properly grounded.
Keep free from obstructions of any size. Often the smallest items on stairs present the greatest danger. Never store materials on steps.
Most chemicals emit dangerous noxious fumes. Make sure to employ airway and hand protection, and take measures to prevent spills. insure that all chemicals and material hazards are properly labeled, secured, with mandatory material safety data sheets for each that are present and easily accessible.
Lock down large tools when not in use or servicing. Return hand tools and supplies to designated storage areas.
Boxes And Drums
Store on a firm foundation, stacked properly to prevent collapse and/or falling, and strap to prevent slippage.
Cords, Cables And Hoses
Be careful how you route and secure electrical cords when you’re using power tools, especially where they cross aisles. When storing, bundle properly and store all cables, cords and hoses in the designated manner, and in designated areas.
Empty Containers And Pallets
Keep stored safely in a designated area. Single pallets may use less space when stored on their ends, but need to be secured to a wall or structure to prevent them from falling.
Emergency first aid requires quick response, but always take time to use protective barriers from body fluids whenever possible (gloves, glasses/goggles, masks, sheeting, etc.).
Drawstrings and cords on hoodies, sweatshirts and coats can strangle you, be a trip hazard, or get caught on or by equipment, causing you to be pulled into machinery. Cut off or securely conceal all items that may get snagged by machinery, or present a trip hazard.
Be aware of, and keep away from, moving objects and equipment, and/or any items that may fall and crush. Keep limbs clear of all danger. Be sure to shut down and lock all equipment before servicing.
Social Service Provider Safety Measures
Those who work in the social services and law enforcement sectors may be in danger of workplace injury due to violence and aggression. In order to reduce risk of injury, we recommend that all employees receive training in non-violent crisis prevention and that worksites are organized so employees are always positioned closest to an exit, with a desk, table or other barrier placed between themselves and the person being served.
Additional Ways To Prevent Injury At Work
You can also help prevent injuries at work in the following ways:
- Put smart phones, cell phones and digital devices in a locker to avoid any possible distraction and avoid all use of them while on the job.
- Lock doors and restrict access to all dangerous areas.
- Avoid eating or drinking on the job, except during authorized breaks. Never work with objects in the mouth.
- Install window guards to prevent accidental falls. Do not place furniture, including chairs, close to windows. Make sure windows are closed and locked securely when not in use.
- Use furniture as intended. Never stand or kneel on furniture. All freestanding furniture and equipment, regardless of height, has the potential to tip and fall, No matter what the size, price or quality, always properly anchor/secure furniture and equipment.
- Electrical outlets and equipment can present shock hazards. All electrical equipment and outlets should be kept in good condition and be inspected on a regular basis. Use GFIC (Ground Fault Intercept Circuits) in all bathroom and kitchen outlets.
- Blind and curtain cords need to be shortened or removed so they do not present a trip, choke or snag hazard.
- All equipment and storage areas, such as commercial fridges, freezers, washers and dryers, should have interior handles to unlock the doors to prevent personnel from becoming locked inside.
- Keep audio visual equipment secured on stands or in cabinets. Flat screen televisions and monitors should be properly secured to walls, and/or in a manner that doesn’t present a fall hazard.
- Keep all industrial tanks, pools and/or ponds gated and locked. Insure dangers are clearly posted and emergency measures to be taken in case of an accident are readily available. Liquid hazards should be covered with proper protective covers.
- Never work alone in or near any size tank, pool or pond. Consider purchasing aquatic water movement alarms (alarms set off by movement) for fluids being stored.
- Before operating a vehicle, always do vehicle walk-arounds to check the area for persons and equipment that may not be seen by shoulder checks and use of mirrors.
- Use carbon monoxide and smoke detectors where needed. Test them on a regular basis to ensure proper operation.
- Hold facility fire/evacuation drills.
- Always keep emergency phone numbers, including the Poison Control Center, by all worksite telephones.
- Ensure that all workers know CPR, Basic First Aid and emergency procedures.
- Insure that all equipment is turned off and properly secured when not in supervised use.
3 Primary Ways To Make Situations Safer
There are three primary ways to make a situation safer:
- 1. Eliminate the risk.
- 2. Reduce the risk.
- 3. Substitute an action, a product or a piece of equipment with something that is safer.
Duty To Report
In the event of an accident, be aware of your “Duty To Report”. If you, or somone else is injured on the job, you have duty to report the circumstances and what happened. The reasons for reporting injury are:
- You may not be aware of how bad the injury is or possible long term effects.
- To assist employers in identifying risks and making necessary changes to prevent the same or similar injury from happening to others.
- Reporting accidents documents that the injured received required emergency medical attention and were made aware of eligibility for compensation.
Never Underestimate The Importance Of Prevention
Never underestimate the importance of prevention … especially after you’ve already been injured! As mentioned earlier, once a person’s injured, they’re far more susceptible to receiving additional injuries. This is thought to be because ‘being injured’ is an unfamiliar state and it’s the ‘weirdness’ of that state — the new sensations, and limitations — that gets people into trouble. So, injured people — especially if they’ve never been injured seriously before — need to be much more alert to potential dangers and possible reinjury.
Common Causes Of Reinjury
Some common causes of re-injury are:
- Reaction to medications
- Changes to mobility and/or function
- Compromised balance/perception
- Impaired vision
- Slowed reactions
No Substitute For Safety
The bottom line is that there’s no substitute for safety. Anywhere. At anytime. Employers need to insure that you have a safe worksite and employ safe work practices, but it’s ultimately up to you to make sure that you remain safe at work and in life. So please, stay alert to danger and stay safe!