Teaching workplace safety can be a serious challenge, especially when you work in an environment that most employees consider a safe place to be.
It is often commonplace to encounter this attitude in an office or retail store environment where employees think that they aren’t performing duties that would be considered dangerous or hazardous in any way. It is this very attitude that can lead to some of the most common workplace injuries in all environments. Slipping and falling is a problem for many employers and so it is important to stress the use of commonsense and safety.
Slips and falls are one of the most frequent causes of accidents, both on and off the job. Each year in the United States, more than 300,000 people suffer disabling injuries from falls. Slipping and falling can be fatal as well. Deaths from slipping and falling rank second only to automobile accidents, causing nearly 12,000 deaths a year. In safety training meeting it’s important to stress that to avoid getting hurt from falls, employees must avoid rushing and remember some of the following tips:
WATCH WHERE YOU WALK
Always be aware of where you are walking. While walking you should look down continuously for spilled liquids, materials, equipment, changing surface levels, etc. Often an injury will take place when an employee is busy talking or making phone calls and just don’t see the hazards under their feet. Make sure that all areas are well-lit, indoors and out, or use a flashlight if lighting is poor.
WEAR PROPER FOOTWEAR
Make sure your shoes are in good shape and correct for any the job you are doing. Discard worn-out shoes with smooth soles and other defects to prevent slipping. If workplace conditions are wet and slippery, wear non-slip shoes or boots. Avoid footwear with leather soles which have poor floor traction--especially on smooth surfaces.
CHECK FLOOR OPENINGS
Avoid unguarded floor openings. On construction sites, when covers are placed over floor openings, avoid walking on the cover unless it is absolutely secure and will not move or collapse. Never jump over pits or other openings.
BE CAREFUL ON STAIRS
Do not run when going up or down stairs. Check to see that stair treads are in good shape, with no obstructions on the steps. Always use the hand railings that are provided. Avoid carrying large loads when going up or down stairs and ensure that stairs are well-lit.
USE LADDERS CORRECTLY
Common sense should tell you to never use broken or defective ladders. Set the angle of the ladder at the proper four-to-one ratio (height to width angle). Make sure the ladder is on solid footing and will not move when you climb upon it. Whenever possible, tie your ladder to the structure to improve stability. Anchorage at the bottom is also a good idea. Never stand on the top two steps of a stepladder.
MAKE SURE SCAFFOLDING IS SAFE TO USE
If you find yourself working on scaffolding, make sure it is secure, stable and properly set-up. Do not work on scaffolding if guardrails are missing or the base is unstable. Check to see that planks are in good shape and not cracked. Tall scaffolds should be tied into a structure to increase stability.
DON'T JUMP OUT OF VEHICLES
Never jump from equipment or vehicles, no matter how slowly it seems to be going. Use the handrail and steps provided, remembering the "three point rule." Avoid stepping onto loose rocks, slippery surfaces, oil spills, etc.
Watch your step and don't trip yourself up! Remember, Gravity Always Wins!
Stairways and walkways in all businesses can be the cause of injury accidents, especially slipping and falling. These passageways do not typically get the maintenance they need, since they are "only" access ways and not in retail or production areas. Here are ten safety tips to help eliminate exposures to unnecessary injury at your company.
- Always keep one hand free to use the handrails, both up and down the stairways.
- Keep all stairs and walkways clear of debris and potentially slippery substances such as: ice, snow, water, oil, or grease. Good housekeeping routines are especially important on stairs.
- Keep passageways free of tools, equipment and other materials. Always practice good housekeeping in these non-production areas.
- When walkways and stairs are provided-use them. Don't short cut your safety to save a few steps or a few seconds. Hopping off loading docks or jumping over piping saves no time or money if you are injured and cannot work.
- Shop or warehouse mezzanines should be equipped with standard railings to protect open sides. Railings should have top rails with a vertical height of 42 inches, mid rails, posts, and toe boards. Your company may have a small office located within a larger building with its roof area used for storing materials. Review the space's access and guarding. Make sure it has a full stairway or ladder access and is equipped with perimeter railings. It is also wise to have an engineer calculate the maximum load the roof area can handle.
- Standard handrails must be provided for stairs with four or more steps. Handrails should be 30 to 34 inches from the top of the stair tread, measured in line with the face of the riser.
- Handrails can become loose and may need to be re-secured or replaced. Do not assume someone else will repair or report it. Immediately mention any problem to the right person, such as your supervisor, or take the time to fix it yourself.
- Where there are elevation changes in walkways highlight the change so it is plainly visible. Distinguishing the change alerts those unfamiliar with the walkway to the hazard. Using bright yellow caution striping is helpful.
- Secure electrical cords and hoses so that they do not lie across walkways. If electrical cords must be laid across walkways, use approved cord covers whenever possible. Consider setting up a caution sign or flagging to alert individuals of cords or hoses in their path until a permanent "approved" solution can be put into place.
- Take small steps on wet and icy walkways. Use handholds to stabilize yourself when they are available. Asphalt and oiled surfaces can also be hazardous because rainwater may produce an oil sheen and create slippery walking conditions.
Unlike some exposures, stairway hazards or slippery walkways can happen overnight, such as in a snow or ice.
Take action to remedy any potential problem when you see it to prevent slipping and falling accidents in your workplace.