Every single day thousands of people across the country are injured at work. Most of these injuries occur in workplaces that involve a lot of physical labor. Repetitive actions, loose materials, and a number of other conditions unique to these types of jobs can often put workers at risk for some easily preventable injuries.
While the fixes to remedying these conditions can sometimes seem obvious, there are often underlying problems in workplace culture that need changing or tweaking in order to keep things running smoothly and safely in the long term. Here are a few of the most common types of work-related injuries and what you can do to prevent them.
Slips & Trips
Slips and trips make up a large percentage of the reported incidents OSHA receives each year. These types of incidents can range from relatively un-damaging to life-threatening, especially when an individual strikes their head as a result. Other common complications include pulled muscles, broken bones, and severe bruising. One of the leading causes of slips and trips is a disorganized workplace; puddles or piles of materials on the ground (like water or sawdust) make walking spaces easy to slip and slide around on. Likewise, objects or materials that are left out in the open can be easily tripped on.
Solutions: Just saying “keep the workplace cleaner” isn’t really a full strategy or a solution. What you need is to implement a plan that allows you to assign cleanup tasks. Part of the plan should be cleaning up immediately after using a station, but another part should be routine (usually nightly or each morning) where employees take turns cleaning up for the upcoming work day to ensure everything stays in order. Lastly, if the floor area is consistently getting wet, placing a slippery when wet sign is a must.
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Cited as the most common on-the-job injury, overexertion can be a huge risk to many working in physical labor, and is usually associated with lifting heavy objects. Overexertion injuries account for billions of dollars in injury benefit costs each year and can have long-lasting implications for both those injured and those who employ(ed) them.
Solutions: One of the biggest ways to avoid these types of injuries is lots and lots of training. UPS often re-quizzes their drivers every week to every month on proper lifting and moving behaviors to help them avoid injury. Because training is often brushed aside when deadlines are looming, it is important that concepts taught in training are re-visited often to ingrain them in workers’ minds. Enforcing the training is also key, work to quickly but respectfully address any unsafe lifting practices you see occurring by talking with employees directly.
Machine entanglement is one of the most cringe-worthy and life-threatening injuries in the business, and they are, unfortunately, more common than what you might think. In most cases, loose clothing or protective gear gets snagged in a machine which then causes a limb or employee to be drawn in. Injuries range from small scrapes and breaks, for those who are lucky, to major bone breakge, internal bleeding, and even death.
Solutions: Make sure employees NEVER have loose clothing, uniforms, tools, protective gear (like gloves), etc. when operating a machine with risk of entanglement. Also, any points that could snag a worker on a machine should have guards and be as closed off as possible.
On the Job Acts of Violence
It’s a bit of an “eye roller,” but it happens; sometimes tempers flare and people don’t get along, in these cases fights or assaults on the job can not only be detrimental physically, but can also be emotionally distressing to your workforce and an administrative nightmare.
Solutions: Focusing on prevention is best here, obviously. Basically, employees need to be trained in reporting suspicious behavior and for de-escalating violent situations. While this training may not be called into practice very often, it is still important to be recognized and applied in these situations.