Workplaces today are extremely safe compared to what people had to endure generations ago. This is in large part because of the increased focus employers have put on workplace safety. Employers made this effort for a variety of reasons including regulatory pressure, the best interests of their employees, and of course, the fact that a safe workplace is a more profitable workplace.
Despite all the great strides that have been made, many workplaces are still quite hazardous. The following 10 workplace safety mistakes illustrate just how far many industries still have to go. They can also help spur ideas for where improvements can be made in your facility.
1. Using Ladders Improperly
One of the most common and most dangerous workplace safety mistakes is failing to use a ladder properly. People make many ladder-related mistakes in the workplace, all of which can be devastating. The following are just a few of the more common examples:
- Unsteady Ladders – If you don’t take the time to properly steady the ladder when setting it up, it could easily slide out while you’re on it, causing serious injuries.
- Leaning from Ladders – When working on a ladder, you should never reach off to the left or right as that can throw the center of balance off, which could cause the ladder to fall.
- Using Objects as a Ladder – Using scaffolding, chairs, stools, or other objects to reach high areas can be dangerous. These things aren’t meant for climbing the same way a ladder is.
- Climbing too High on Ladders – One should never step onto the upper rungs of a ladder. Depending on how the ladder is placed, even several rungs down can be unstable.
2. Lack of Visual Communication
The noise in many workplaces can be quite deafening at times, which can make it difficult to communicate. When it comes to safety, communication is essential. This is why it is so important to have visual communication options in any loud workplace.
Visual communication can come in many forms including signs, labels, floor markings, lights, and more. Taking the time to find ways to effectively communicate without relying on voices will take some effort, but it can dramatically increase the overall safety of a facility.
3. Overcomplicating Safety Instructions
When making a policy to improve the safety of one particular area in a facility, it is important not to overcomplicate things. Keep in mind that the safety efforts made will need to be followed by everyone in the facility, and making them too complex will only result in people bending or breaking the rules.
To the extent possible, all safety instructions given out in a facility should be short and to the point. In addition, these instructions should be in line with common sense so people won’t have difficulty understanding what they are doing and why.
4. Not Cleaning & Organizing the Facility
One of the simplest yet most effective things that you can do to improve facility safety is keep it clean and organized. Sadly, this is also one of the most common workplace safety mistakes people make. Rather than taking the time to clean and organize an area, many companies see this type of activity as a waste of time.
A clean and organized workplace, however, helps keep tools and equipment in good condition (and keeps them from being lost). A messy work area also presents an increased risk of tripping and other accidents.
5. Failing to Use Proper Personal Protective Equipment
The widespread use of personal protective equipment is one of the most important ways companies have improved safety over the years. Unfortunately, many employees either fail to use the PPE at all or they don’t use it properly. This leaves them exposed to the dangers they are supposed to be protected from.
Not only that, but when one person is not wearing the right personal protective equipment, it increases the risk for everyone around them. This type of compounding hazard can lead to very serious safety issues that could have otherwise been avoided.
6. Using the Wrong Tool for the Job
Just about every task that needs to be done in a facility will require some type of tool. Using the right tool for the job is not only the most efficient way to get it done, but it is also the safest. When employees try to take a shortcut by just using whatever tool they have with them at the time, they are dramatically increasing the risk of an accident occurring.
Investing the time and money into making sure the right tools are available for a given job will help keep people safe and will also ensure a job is done quickly and correctly.
7. Neglecting the Maintenance & Inspections of Machinery
For many companies, keeping machines up and operating at all times is the most important thing. When machines are running, they are making money. This is why many facilities postpone or ignore many types of machine inspections and maintenance.
This can, however, cause machines to breakdown unexpectedly. Machine breakdowns are a big problem for productivity, but they can also cause many safety issues. Any machine that has issues will have unpredictable performance, which can put all the people who work with or around the machine at risk. Performing regularly scheduled maintenance and inspections is absolutely critical for workplace safety.
8. Failing to Track “Near Misses”
Just about everyone who has worked in any type of work environment has had a “near miss” at some point in their career. These are those instances when if something had happened just a little differently, it would have resulted in a serious injury or even fatality.
While it is certainly a relief when nobody is hurt, it does not mean that a safety incident did not occur! Keeping track of all near miss events and learning from them is an important part of any workplace safety strategy. Identifying the cause of a near miss so it can be fixed will help prevent the same thing from happening again in the future, but possibly with much worse results.
9. Treating Education as Optional
One of the biggest workplace safety mistakes a facility can make is treating safety education as optional. While safety education doesn’t provide any immediate return on investment, the long-term benefits are really incalculable. Making this type of training a priority may be the single best thing a company can do to avoid accidents and other safety mistakes in the future.
10. Improper Handling of Hazardous Materials
Facilities often have hazardous materials used for different tasks. These materials need to be stored properly at all times to avoid the risk of a spill or other accident. In addition to keeping them in safe containers, those containers need to be properly labeled so everyone knows what they contain.
A properly labeled hazardous material container will make an accident much less likely. If there is an accident, however, everyone will know what to do based on the information provided on those labels.
Keep Your Facility Safe
These are just 10 of the more common workplace safety mistakes made today. Taking the time to look at how your facility is run and taking steps to correct any mistakes is worth the effort. In the end, avoiding even one serious accident or injury can result in huge benefits for your company and your employees.