Do You Know the Common Workplace Hazard Areas In Your Facility?
When working in a facility for eight or more hours per day, at least five days per week, it is easy to develop a sort of ‘blindness’ to some of the more common workplace hazards. Of course, if something is on fire, or there are other types of major problems, they will get addressed right away. For those smaller or less visible risks, however, they can get overlooked for months or even years. Unfortunately, these smaller hazards are often the ones that end up causing accidents and injuries within the facility.
Take some time to review the following eleven hazards that are commonly found in many facilities throughout the country. It is very likely that at least some of these hazards can be found in your facility as well, so after you’re doe reading through the risks, commit to taking action to reduce or eliminate the problem in your facility.
Common Problem #1: Fall Protection
While falling can be dangerous in any environment, it is especially hazardous when it occurs in an industrial facility or other worksite. Despite this fact, there are areas in facilities around the world where there is a significant fall hazard, and nothing is done to fix it. Take some time to walk through your facility and see if you can locate any areas where there is an elevated risk of falling. This could be anything from falling down stairs, to falling off of a ledge, or even areas where slip and fall accidents are likely. The following are some key areas to watch out for, and solutions that can be put in place:
Stairs – All stairs, whether a large flight or just a few steps, represent a fall risk. The risk is even greater in many facilities as people are often carrying objects, or talking to others while walking. Placing safety signs at or near all stairs will help give a visual signal to people to watch out for nearby stairs.
Open Ledges – In many facilities there are areas that are high up, but have open ledges so machinery or equipment can operate. These areas represent a significant risk for employees working in the area. If a safety railing is not possible, make sure to mark off the area to alert people to the hazard. Using floor tape to draw people’s attention is a great start, and placing signs at the entrance to the area can also be helpful.
Any Facility Entrance – When it is wet or icy outside, the floors near the entrance can become very slippery, which can lead to dangerous falls. Applying traction adding floor tape to this area, along with fans or other items to help dry out the floor more quickly will keep everyone safer.
In Floor Doors – Doors that are built into the floor are not extremely common, but they are still found in many facilities. They may be used to lower items from one level to another, or may be a location for a permanent ladder. Whatever the use, these types of ‘trap doors’ need to be clearly marked and identified to ensure nobody accidentally walks over one and falls through.
Common Problem #2: Respiratory Protection
Millions of people work in environments where they need to have some sort of respiratory protection as a part of their regular job. Many more need to have access to this type of protection in case of a leak, spill or other accident. Many facilities don’t take the time to inspect their respiratory protection equipment on a regular basis to make sure it is providing the proper levels of safety. This can be especially dangerous when it comes to the emergency respiratory equipment, which may not be used often, but can be lifesaving when it is required. Scheduling regular inspections can help keep this equipment operating properly.
Another issue related to respiratory protection is that it may not get stored properly, so people have trouble finding it when it is needed. In order to ensure all the respiratory protection devices are kept where they belong, many facilities have begun labeling each device with a number, and then labeling its designated storage area with the same number. This makes it easy to take inventory, and track where the device is at all times.
Common Problem #3: Electrical Wiring Issues
Having electricity safely run to the places where it is needed in a facility is absolutely essential. While most facilities do a good job with this at first, it can become a problem over time. As it becomes necessary to have electricity in new places, many facilities will get into the habit of simply using extension cords as a solution. These cords should never be more than a temporary fix, while the permanent lines are being run.
While extension cords are in use, it is important to alert everyone in the area that they are there. If people don’t know, it could cause a trip hazard, or even pose a risk that the cord is cut or damaged, which could lead to electrocution. Placing safety floor signs near the cord is a great way to quickly and easily inform everyone in the area that a cord is being used, so they can watch out for it.
Common Problem #4: First Aid & Eye Wash Stations
Nearly every facility will have first aid stations within the facility, and eye wash stations are also becoming extremely common, even in areas where they are not strictly required. While this is certainly a move in the right direction, there are still a number of common problems related to first aid and eye wash stations:
Out of Stock – People often use things from these stations, without replacing them. Things like band aids, pain relievers and disinfectants, for example, often get used up out of the first aid kits. Eye wash stations may become dirty, or have any specialized eye flush used up without being replaced. Checking the inventory on these stations frequently will help ensure items are there when they are needed.
Difficult to Find – Even when people work in an area for a long time, they often can’t find emergency stations when they are needed most. Having safety signs (like this eye wash station sign) put up that direct people toward these areas is a great way to help ensure people can locate them quickly.
Untrained – First aid stations commonly have many items that people don’t know how to use, and eye wash stations aren’t always as simple as they seem. Training employees on basic first aid, and how to use the eye wash station won’t take long, but it is very important.
Improper Use – Of course, as with anything in a facility, if the items in the first aid kit or other safety equipment are used incorrectly, they can cause a variety of risks. Some of these problems may be due to ignorance, and some to people just ‘goofing around’ with the items found in these kits. Explaining the importance of proper use is extremely important in all facilities.
Common Problem #5: Hand Protection
For many jobs within a facility, the most important piece of personal protection equipment are the gloves that are worn. Whether they are gloves to help protect the hands from high temperatures, or gloves that can prevent cuts from sharp objects, these items can save people’s hands and fingers from serious injury. Like all personal protection equipment, however, safety gloves will wear out over time.
Facilities need to make sure they are taking the time to inspect safety gloves on a regular basis, and ensure they are still in good shape. Replacing gloves that are showing signs of wear will help ensure employee’s hands are protected in the event of an accident. Another thing to keep in mind about gloves is that they must fit properly, so providing a variety of sizes, or assigning a specific pair to each employee is very important.
Common Problem #6: Powered Industrial Vehicles
Most facilities have powered vehicles that are operating both inside and outside of the facility. Whether it is a truck that carries inventory where it needs to go, or a hi-low that is putting products on shelves, these vehicles can cause serious accidents, or even fatalities, when a facility is not prepared. Taking the time to identify where these vehicles operated within the facility, and alerting everyone to their potential presence is essential.
Many facilities will use floor tape to create lanes where the vehicles can travel safely. Adding areas that are designated for the employees to walk is also a good idea. Industrial floor tape can also be used in outdoor environments to direct traffic and keep everyone driving in the proper areas. This will help ensure everyone is able to travel safely throughout the facility, with a much lower risk of getting injured by moving vehicles.
Common Problem #7: Confined Work Area Hazards
Working in a confined area can be quite dangerous. Even areas that aren’t legally defined as confined, but are still cramped and have a limited amount of room can cause dangers. Some confined work areas are obvious, such as working in a mine or in a small crawl space. Others, however, are not often thought of as confined, but certainly can be. Examples of this may include performing maintenance within a large machine, working under vehicles and many others.
Identifying any confined work areas in your facility, and assessing any potential hazards associated with it is an important first step in improving the safety of the area. Notifying employees of the hazard by posting safety signs is also important, so everyone will know that when they enter the area, there will be limited room for working, and possibly only one escape route in the event of an emergency.
Common Problem #8: Falling Objects
At construction job sites, warehouses, or any other area where work is being performed both on the ground level and on upper floors, there is always a risk of falling objects. If your facility has the possibility of objects falling and injuring employees below, it is important to make people aware of the risk, and provide them with the personal protection equipment they need to stay safe.
Alerting people to the hazard can be done by posting safety signs throughout the area, letting them know of the potential for falling objects. Requiring hard hats to be worn in any area where there is a risk of falling objects is also a great idea. Employees need to understand that while it may be uncomfortable or inconvenient to have to wear this type of equipment, it could save their life, since it is typically impossible to predict when something might be accidentally dropped from an elevated work area.
Common Problem #9: Noise Hazards
Another hazard that is found at almost all facilities is that of noise pollution. Machinery of all types make a lot of noise, and in many cases the sound levels in a facility can reach dangerous levels. Ongoing exposure to loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss over time. Similarly, sudden spikes in sound can also cause rapid damage to the ears. Examples of this could include press machines which make loud noises while pressing a product.
Taking the time to determine the noise levels in a facility, and offering ear plugs or other hearing protection to employees is a great idea. Posting safety signs in particularly loud areas, or parts of the facility where sudden loud noises may occur is a great way to remind everyone of this very serious risk.
Common Problem #10: Ladder Hazards
Ladders are used in a variety of ways in many different facilities as well as construction sites. According to OSHA statistics, up to 8% of all fatalities that take place at work are due to falls from ladders. Taking steps to improve ladder safety in the facility is an important step toward reducing the risk of falling from high heights and causing injury.
There are many things that can be done to help improve ladder safety in your facility. A growing number of companies are offering ladder safety classes where they cover some of the essential safety tips associated with using a ladder. Things like how to securely set a ladder, how to avoid losing your balance, and many other concepts should be taught in these types of classes. Another important safety tip would be to have signs made to alert people in the area that a ladder is in use, so they don’t accidentally bump into it and cause a fall.
Common Problem #11: Ineffective or Improper Labeling
There are many different chemicals that are used in facilities for a wide range of different things. While these chemicals make it possible to do the job properly, they can also cause some pretty significant injuries, or even fatalities. One of the best way to keep everyone in the facility safe is by making sure that all employees know what chemicals are stored in a particular container, and what the proper way to handle or use the chemical is.
This all starts with proper labeling of all containers where chemicals are stored. Some chemicals will come in pre-labeled containers, which is great, but others don’t. In addition, chemicals are often moved from a large container that they were shipped in, into smaller containers for easier use. Labeling every container that stores these chemicals is essential for safety. Many facilities will have an on-site industrial label printer that allows them to quickly print high quality labels of any type. This is an excellent way to ensure you always have the proper information displayed on all chemical containers.
Reviewing Overall Facility Safety
While many of these hazards may go unnoticed on a regular basis, it is important to make sure that you are doing everything possible to identify them and eliminate them. Actively looking for these common hazards in your facility will help you to notice these types of issues, so you can make changes to keep the employees and the facility as a whole much safer.
Even simply performing a walk through the facility with these ten items in mind once or twice a year can give you a lot of valuable insight into what dangers exist in the facility. In addition, keep in mind that it is not any one person’s responsibility to identify these common hazards. The entire facility should be working together to ensure necessary safety improvements are made. When everyone does their part, the facility will continuously become safer and safer over time. Make sure to check out Creative Safety Supply for all your safety needs.