Every year there are more than 4.5 million accidents in the workplace. That works out as one workplace injury every 7 seconds!
These injuries can be extremely debilitating and result in you having to take time off work. This loses both you and your company money and can even leave long-lasting damage. In fact, in 2017 over 5,000 people died from workplace injuries.
And the majority of these injuries are entirely avoidable. So how can you protect yourself against being injured at work? Read on to find out more!
Be Aware of Potential Hazards
Knowing the sources of potential hazards will help you to keep an eye out for them and avoid them. After all, if you remove workplace hazards, the chances of you having an accident are significantly lower.
Slipping, tripping or falling are some the most common workplace accidents. This often involves falling on or over an object that isn’t where it should be. Trips hazards can also include loose wiring or carpet.
Fires are another danger in the workplace. They can be caused by faulty wiring as well as open flames and have devastating consequences for people and property. In certain environments, fires can also lead to explosions.
Any vehicles or machinery used in the workplace also presents a potential hazard for people working there.
But not all work-related injuries come from malfunctions or misuse of equipment. Repetitive movements over a long period of time can cause damage to people’s muscles and joints. This means that workplace injuries can occur in offices as well as in warehouses.
Review Hazards That Could Cause a Workplace Injury
It’s important to keep an eye on any of these potential hazards over a period of time. Just because something is safe one day doesn’t mean it still will be in a month. So be vigilant.
Looking through old work injury records can help you to familiarize yourself with specific dangers in your area of work. In particular, keep an eye out for patterns in:
- The types of injuries that have occurred
- When they happened (both seasonally and during the day)
- What the person was doing when they happened
- Any equipment involved
Your health and safety team should also conduct walk-throughs when reviewing the safety of your workplace. This is the only way to really spot potential hazards.
You should also keep in mind that different roles within one workplace might pose new hazards. If your role changes or you start working in a new area then you should always reassess your safety.
If you spot something that you think could be a hazard, then report it to the appropriate person. Simply leaving it means it remains a danger to you and others.
And keep pushing until the problem is fully fixed. You aren’t causing trouble – in fact, you’re preventing it! Your company has a legal obligation to remove any workplace hazards.
They should also provide proper training and communication about safety drills. So if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your manager.
And share your knowledge and concerns with your colleagues. In a hazardous situation, if they don’t know which safety procedures to follow they also become a hazard. You can protect yourself and others by making sure everyone is in the know.
If a large number of people aren’t aware of safety procedures, then it might be time to request a refresher course from your company.
Always Use Proper Safety Equipment
The safety equipment in your workplace is there for a reason, so use it.
All safety equipment should come with appropriate training or explanation. This might be in the form of a sign or in a manual depending on the equipment.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with this. It might seem straight forward but if there are any specific issues you need to be aware of them before it’s too late.
And always adhere to proper signage in your workplace. If a sign tells you to wear a hard hat or luminous vest then you should follow these instructions. Just because you can’t see a hazard doesn’t mean it isn’t there!
These indications might not always be in the most obvious place, so stay aware of them. Yellow markings on the floor might show you vehicle routes.
If you work with machinery then this should have an emergency stop button. Make sure you know exactly where it is and ask someone if you don’t.
Make Sure You Know the Safety Procedures
Just as with safety equipment, safety procedures are only useful if you know how to use them properly.
You should familiarize yourself with any company protocols for your work environment. This includes knowing fire exit routes.
Depending on your job, you may also need to follow specific safety protocols. For example, if your job involves lifting then you should follow guidelines on how to do this safely. This involves protecting your back while you lift as well as stopping you from dropping anything.
Your company should communicate clearly with you about any changes to or new safety procedures. But if you have any questions about them ask straight away. After all, it’s your own safety you’re risking if you don’t.
Make Sure Your Training Is Up-to-Date
Any health and safety training you receive needs updating every few years. For example, any first aid training lasts a maximum of three years.
This isn’t necessarily because it will change. It’s just that after a few years you might find that you have forgotten some of it. And you don’t want to realize this when you need it the most.
Keep a note of any training you receive and the date that you receive it on. And use this information to make a reminder in your diary when you’re due for a refresher course.
Look After Yourself
Keeping safe in the workplace isn’t just about removing physical hazards. Feeling stressed or distracted makes you a danger in the workplace.
This is understandable. The more stressed you are, the less able you are to focus on the task in hand. And this can cause you to make hazardous errors.
Being too tired or experiencing emotional turbulence in your personal life can also impact your ability to work safely. This is especially true if your job involves working with heavy machinery or vehicles. Changes to or new medications can also affect this.
If you’re concerned about your ability to work properly then you should speak to your manager. As with physical threats to safety, they have a duty of care to you and your colleagues to make sure that you can perform your job safely.
Don’t Stay Still All Day
One of the most common work-related injuries actually comes from staying stationary for too long. This is particularly common in anyone who works long hours in an office environment or behind a cash register.
Sitting in the same position for a long time puts pressure on your joints. This can often lead to lower back or neck pain. A poorly designed workstation can also lead to:
- Shoulder problems
- Carpal tunnel
- Poor posture
Staring at a computer screen for too long can also cause your eyes to dry out and can make your vision blur. This creates a vicious cycle: your vision impairment creates a hazard for you and your colleagues when moving around the office.
Avoid these potential workplace injuries by adjusting your workstation’s ergonomics. This means giving yourself the proper back and wrist support while working. You should also carefully position your computer screen – too high, low, close or faraway can all create problems.
As well as this you should take frequent breaks from your desk. Go for a walk around your office or outside to give your body a break.
If you do suffer from a workplace injury such as repetitive strain injury it can be hard to make a claim against your company. This is because you have to be able to pinpoint the cause of it. If this is the case, workers compensation doctors might be able to help support your claim.
The Bottom Line
Keeping yourself and your colleagues aware of potential hazards in the workplace is the best way to avoid workplace injuries.
So spread the word and keep an eye out. And don’t forget to reassess your working environment and yourself on a regular basis.
Never be nervous about flagging up an issue with your boss. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep you safe while you work.
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