According to the National Safety Council, every 7 seconds, an employee gets an injury at their place of work. Injuries can cause considerable losses for both the worker and the organization. Research shows that organizations can prevent many non fatal workplace injuries.
It is up to the management of the company to ensure that such events do not happen. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common personal injury cases in the workplace and how to prevent them.
The most common non fatal injuries usually result from the overexertion of the body and mind. Employees may get musculoskeletal aches due to lifting, moving, or holding heavy objects. Every year organizations spend billions of dollars for treating back pain and the lost time caused by overexertion. It is responsible for three out of 10 occupational health problems and many non fatal workplace injuries.
On occasion, overexertion may cause debilitating injuries. Even mild aches can become worse if you continue working while you have an injury. OSHA standards expect employers to assist staff in lifting heavy objects where possible.
Overexertion is also prevalent for office staff engaged in work that is not physically engaging. Repetitive tasks can lead to burnouts, which can hurt the production output. Even working for hours on end on a desk could cause pain in the neck, arms, and legs.
Therefore, employers need to provide reasonable terms for working that uphold the employee’s dignity and wellbeing. There must be adequate breaks and periods of rest. Exercise is essential for employees to prevent the risk of undergoing extensive procedures, such as orthopedic surgery.
Overexertion may also be due to poor work conditions where there are inadequate lighting fixtures and air conditioning. Hot and humid spaces can increase the rate of fatigue and burnouts. The workspace may not have enough room to move around, which may affect the working posture.
Organizations can end up spending a lot on workers compensation lawyers and penalty fees. Companies can save on long-term expenditures by investing in ergonomic tools and furniture to ease their employee’s work. Training on the proper use and manipulation of equipment can minimize accidents while also maximizing the industrial output.
Slips and Falls
According to the CDC, 27% of non fatal workplace injuries were from slip and fall accidents. The report indicates many of the cases were severe enough to lead to absenteeism. Other statistics show the total amount of money spent on slip accidents was approximately $11 million in 2017.
The most frequent incidences of falls are in the construction industry. It is prevalent where operations are in elevated areas that lack supporting structures, such as scaffolding. Employers should provide safety gear for staff working on roofs. Roofing technicians need equipment such as anchorage, body harness, and protective vest, in addition to the standard PPE.
However, non fatal workplace injuries resulting from falls are not the preserve of construction premises. Close to 60% of the reported slip accidents are in the services and retail sector. That may include restaurant staff working in an environment susceptible to falls due to oily and sticky floors.
Also, cleaners responsible for mopping floors and wiping tiled surfaces may experience accidents under similar circumstances. The business has to install and maintain tiles that are suitable for the nature of its operations. Restaurants should have non-slip flooring to keep staff and patrons safe.
Falling may become frequent in premises with operations that involve open trenches. Tools and plumbing from drainage tunnels will further increase the risk of a hazard. Plant managers should look out for uneven surfaces that could cause workers to trip and fall.
Managers should pay attention to the details of the work environment to minimize the incidences of non fatal workplace injuries. For instance, how you place the carpeting can increase the risk of workers tripping in the office.
Inadequate lighting can also cause slips due to low visibility, especially for those moving around the workplace. Commercial buildings should have the right type of lamps around stairs and dark spaces. It is also wise to have signs where there is the possibility of stepping into a hole or trench.
Slip hazards are, indeed, a cause of worry for plant managers trying to reduce the risk of non fatal workplace injuries. Statistics from the CDC show that 20 to 30 percent of cases result in hip and head injuries. It is also one of the leading causes of brain injury.
Machines in the plant are responsible for a significant proportion of non fatal workplace injuries in the manufacturing and the construction sector. Disasters can arise from faults within heavy-duty equipment. Such equipment issues may range from forklift operator errors to equipment falling on staff.
Many cases of machine accidents result from an undesirable interaction with an object within the plant. It could involve a collision with a machine or entanglement with its cables. It could pin workers against cargo or a wall. There is also the risk of loads falling from the forklift onto forklift operators or people passing by. Those accidents are also prevalent with other types of industrial equipment such as cherry pickers, dump trucks, and excavators.
Serious machine accidents can result in loss of limbs, head injuries, and extensive fractures. Employers should focus on prevention, which often proves to be more affordable than treatment for non fatal workplace injuries. That may require developing safety protocols where there is the use of machinery in operations. Additionally, the implementation of a safe workplace plan is necessary to minimize the risk of accidents.
The plan may involve erecting machine barriers to protect workers from falls and slips. Members of staff need to be clear on how to use safety gear, such as harnesses and sharp-toed shoes. The lack of safety guards can cause part of the clothing to get into the industrial equipment’s moving parts. Fingers and limbs would then get entangled, which may leave an employee with severe wounds.
Effective managers understand that they need to adhere to protocols to boost the levels of workplace safety. The staff has the responsibility to remain aware of their surroundings at all times. They must not remove guards unless there is maintenance work underway.
The staff must not play pranks within an industrial plant where there are machines. They should understand that the servicing of equipment is the reserve of the specialized personnel. Non-skilled workers tweaking with machinery can unwittingly leave faults that may cause injuries later.
The plant manager should see to it that every staff member knows the forklift paths, not just the machine operator. The workspace can have markings that demarcate the loading and offloading zones. The crew must always stay clear of the equipment operation zone.
Managers should also not delay organizing for construction equipment repair. Timely servicing can capture faults before they cause an accident. The protocols should include a comprehensive schedule and a timeline for maintenance.
Fire and Explosions
According to OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration), there are 36 deaths annually from fires in the construction industry. If you are in confinement where there are flames, you could succumb to asphyxiation. It can also trigger several other debilitating but non fatal workplace injuries, including scarring, chronic pain, and psychological distress.
The fire can be severe in construction sites where it is not unusual to find flammable fluids. Some processes require storage tanks that contain volatile gasses. Acetylene used for welding sheet metal work on construction sites is highly flammable. The chemical can turn into vapor at low temperatures, spreading flames far and wide.
In agricultural industries, certain types of fertilizers can cause explosions during storage. The subsequent explosions that often follow a fire are responsible for some of the most severe non fatal workplace injuries.
The impact of the explosion can be felt across a large area. The initial blast is enough to throw you off the ground. It may launch projectiles that can injure workers, even those far away from the explosion. They can cause several health issues ranging from breathing difficulties to fractures.
Electrical failure may also be another source of destructive flames. A combination of sparks and flammable fluids is a hazard to work sites. The prevalence in the application of electronic tools in construction sites may have increased the rate of fire hazards. Incidences are preventable if there is adherence to the standards for the installation of electrical equipment. Workers should also remember that electrical hazards can be particularly dangerous in metal buildings due to the risk of multiple electrocutions.
The following safety measures can help minimize the risk of fires:
- Organize and Check for Hazards: A cluttered workplace is more susceptible to a fire accident. You can isolate the flammable materials by organizing and labeling containers, equipment, and tools. It also clears the pathway for when the staff has to respond to an emergency.
- Smoke Detectors: Installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can prevent calamities in the workplace. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is hard to detect. It is, however, toxic and may cause fatalities and respiratory problems. You will need to check the devices to ensure they are working.
- Fire Extinguishers: There are several types of fire extinguishers for different kinds of flames. Some are meant for burning gasoline, while others are suitable for electrical fires. Businesses should ensure that they have the right class of equipment in their commercial buildings. The organization can enhance safety by installing sprinklers to put out flames. The equipment will require maintenance regularly to ensure it is functional in case of a disaster.
- Training and Records: It is the employer’s responsibility to prepare a maintenance schedule and an action plan. Training may include learning the dangers of fighting fires and how to use the equipment. The management may organize drills to test their employees’ preparedness in case of a disaster.
Work Safety and the Obligations of the Employer
The employer has to create a safe working environment in compliance with the labor regulations and building codes. OSHA standards may vary across different sectors. There are standards for agriculture, construction, maritime, among other industries. It is up to the employer to see to it that the workplace is compliant.
In case a member of staff is involved in an accident, an injury lawyer would want to find out if the organization is responsible. Some non fatal workplace injuries may occur due to negligence, for example, the lack of warning symbols.
The plant manager must ensure there is a warning sign in areas of the plant prone to hazards. They could be in the form of posters, labels, and signposts. The company should have operating procedures for staff and regularly update them where necessary.
Organizations also have a responsibility to carry out medical evaluations as part of the workplace safety plan. It may involve initial tests to check if the employee is fit for the task. Additional follow-up evaluations may be necessary, especially if there are symptoms of complications. There may be other testing processes as prescribed by the healthcare provider.
The employer also has to compile information related to safety issues. Records may be required to determine the cause of an accident. It involves data on maintenance tasks, including dates for the repairs and when they complete the upgrades.
Employers need to disclose information to staff and how it could impact their health and wellbeing. OSHA recommends developing a hazard communication program to prevent non fatal workplace injuries.
The plan must include training for employees on how to respond in case of fires, machine, or slip falls. Regulations require the management to consult employees when developing a workplace safety plan. The organization should consult its workers directly or through a trade union representative.
Employers also have to perform routine risk assessments of the workplace. Employees also need to know that they cannot rely entirely on the management to keep them safe. The organization should see to it their staff receive training on how to spot and report hazards. They should always be on the lookout for anything that could cause harm.
Workplaces like metal warehouse buildings are ultimately very safe places to work. But everyone has to do their part to keep it that way. Workplace injuries can cause a lot of harm for the employee, even when it is not fatal. Regulations expect employers to have a safe workplace plan to mitigate disaster.