Accidents on the job not only threaten the health and livelihood of manual laborers, but they also financially burden businesses of all sizes for millions of dollars every single year. The first step in reducing this risk to both yourself and your employees, is understanding the top factors associated with workplace injuries, and then effectively teaching them to your workers. Let’s start with what you should have in place before your workforce ever hits the floor.
Creating a Safe Workplace
You know your particular industry better than anyone, so use that knowledge to create a workplace ideal for the safety of your employees. Consider carefully the placement of conveyor belts, stations in which employees will be standing, walking lanes, lifts, shelving, vehicles, benches, and other items essential to your operation. Are there potentially overcrowded areas, or elements of your operation that could be problematic in close proximity to each other? Can the use of proper floor markings be implemented to help organize pallets, forklift traffic, and machinery?
In addition to organization, your workspace should be kept clean. Sawdust, shavings, water, or other liquids are slips waiting to happen. This also goes for trash and stray materials, which present tripping hazards when left laying around. Most people reading this likely already have their workspace setup, but it’s still worth taking the time to re-evaluate your workspace with these things in mind.
Encourage Your Employees to be Aware of Their Limits
Overexertion accounts for roughly three and a half million work-related injuries every single year. Overexertion occurs when employees push their limits (lifting, pulling, pushing, etc.) too far. Stretching before physically exerting oneself, though often neglected, is proven to reduce these types of injuries. Lifting techniques are another huge factor, especially in back injuries; use legs rather than bending at the waist, don’t twist your torso while lifting a heavy object, etc. For a good example of a global company that incorporates these policies, look no further than shipping giant UPS. Drivers are required to stretch before their work days and are tested regularly on safety policies.
Keep Employee Lines of Communication Open
The old adage that “communication is key” is even more true when managing employee safety. This first becomes apparent in passing on the safety policies and tips you learn to your workers. Employees need to know that safety policies are important, serious, and not to be taken lightly. For this reason, it’s important to check in with employees on a regular basis to make sure that they not only have taken note of and understand the safety policies in place, but that they also know they are important to follow.
On the other hand, employees should be comfortable reporting safety concerns of their own to their manager(s). This is when it’s your turn to listen, and you can always gain valuable insights by paying attention to the thoughts and concerns of those out on the work floor or in the field each day. Striking a balance in positive communication is essential to managing a safe work force.
I also encourage everyone, at all levels of management, to make regular visits to the work floor, or travel out into the field to see first hand what your workers see. You can gain invaluable information from these trips that can be hard to see from afar. This also encourages good communication and regular interaction with employees.
Best of luck, and above all, be safe out there.
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