8 Tips to Prevent Workplace Injuries
Knowledge is Prevention
Accidents are avoidable. While it's true that accidents happen, most of the time, they don't have to. With the right knowledge, practices, and equipment, employers can prevent workplace injuries.
The following list outlines the effects of common workplace incidents and provides information to help you identify the causes and avoid potentially fatal accidents.
From the Fatal Four to the Top Ten
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers a variety of statics that can help you prevent workplace injuries. Not only are this agency’s standards and guidelines critical to safety, but its fatal four and top ten define the types of incidents employers should work to avoid.
OSHA identifies construction as one of the most dangerous industries, and has developed a list of the leading causes of death in construction and dubbed it the Fatal Four: falls, struck by objects, electrocution, and caught-in/between. These types of incidents can happen in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, commercial, general, institutional, and municipal.
Each year, OSHA also identifies the top ten most frequently cited OSHA standards violated. The most recent data ranks those cited violations as follows:
- Fall protection, construction
- Hazard communication standard, general industry
- Scaffolding, general requirements, construction
- Respiratory protection, general industry
- Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry
- Ladders, construction
- Powered industrial trucks, general industry
- Fall protection–training requirements
- Machinery and machine guarding, general requirements
- Eye and face protection
#1. Prevent Chemical Burns and Hazardous Material Contact
The causes of these injuries include lack of proper hazard communication, adequate training, and appropriate safety equipment.
Chemical burns and hazardous material contact injuries are all too common. The required annual hazard communication training can prevent workplace injuries by ensuring both employers and employees understand the risks and can implement proper safety protocols. And safety equipment such as emergency eyewash and shower stations located within a "10-second rush to get a 15-minute flush" would lessen the impact of hazardous material contact.
#2. Prevent Cuts, Puncture Wounds, and Lacerations
The causes of these injuries include unsafe equipment, improper packaging, lack of training, and lack of machine guarding.
Cuts, puncture wounds, and lacerations are common injuries in construction, manufacturing, and distribution. Most of the time, you can prevent workplace injuries like these with the right equipment in place and worker training. Proper equipment includes safety knives, machine guards, and plastic packing materials.
#3. Prevent Electrocution, Shocks, and Burns
The causes of these injuries and fatalities include exposure to uncontrolled energy, arc flash, and arc blast.
Electrocution, shocks, and burns from contact with live electricity or exposure to an arc flash or arc blast can result in permanent injuries or death. Safety standards require personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, and gloves be provided by the employer along with an engineered electrical hazard assessment and proper labeling of any equipment which may expose a worker to live conductors.
#4. Prevent Hearing Loss and Auditory Damage
The causes of these injuries include loud noise levels, lack of ear protection, and ototoxic chemicals.
Hearing loss and auditory damage occur when exposure over time damages the inner tissues of the ears. Often this damage does not show up until it is too late to repair. Hearing loss abatement, sound level testing, auditory testing, and provision of noise reduction personal protection is a serious requirement by OSHA.
#5. Prevent Overexertion
The causes of injuries associated with overexertion include repetitive motion, lack of ergonomic conditions, improper movements and positions, and lifting heavy materials.
Overexertion causing muscle and joint damage can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Preventing these conditions with safety equipment and ergonomic workspaces can increase productivity, reduce injury rates, and decrease workers' comp claims. Employers can significantly decrease MSDs by taking proper safety measures, including installing lift tables, rotating job tasks, and providing ergonomic equipment.
#6. Prevent Pinches, Nips, and Amputations
The causes of these injuries include unguarded machines, improper procedures, untrained workers.
Pinch and nip injuries and amputations in the workplace are often the result of untrained machine operators, improper or missing lockout/tagout procedures, and machine guarding that has been field modified, removed, or improperly mounted. These horrific injuries can permanently damage a worker. Compliant machine guarding, consistent training, and regular evaluation can prevent workplace injuries.
#7. Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls
Injuries resulting from these incidents are caused by slick surfaces, walkway obstructions, lack of protective equipment, and improper ladder usage.
Slips, trips, and falls are commonly caused by wet, oily, or messy workplaces. Sorbents, matting, and housekeeping can prevent such injuries. And fall arrest equipment and training are critical when working at height, and ladder safety is also critical in providing a safe workplace. OSHA compliance, training, and PPE will protect workers and prevent workplace injuries.
#8. Prevent Struck-By, Caught-Between, and Crushing Injuries
These devastating accidents are causes by overloaded racking, improper anchoring of scaffolds, poorly set up kick plates on mezzanines, forklifts, and powered industrial trucks.
These incidents account for half of OSHA’s Fatal Four. Struck-by, caught-between, crushing injuries are often the result of lack of training or supervision or carelessness or complacency by workers. Ongoing training, awareness reminders, signage, and documentation of safety checklists help to abate these hazards.
Safety is Prevention
As an employer, you must identify hazards in your workplace and take steps to eliminate or minimize them to prevent workplace injuries. Safety training provides your employees with the knowledge and skills they need to protect equipment, facilities and, most importantly, each other. Safety not only ensures that all your workers return home safe and healthy every day—it increases brand reputation, improves efficiency and worker morale, and ultimately saves you money.
We Can Help You Prevent Workplace Injuries
This list was just the tip of the iceberg—be sure to download our Prevention & Safety Guide. This 28-page book provides valuable information to help you prevent the top eight workplace injuries listed above. If you want to start a safety program or boost an existing one, we have safety specialists, authorized OSHA Outreach Instructors on staff, and offer a range of resources to support you as you develop a more efficient and safer workplace. Contact us today!