5 Steps to Reduce Risk and Make Your Workday Safe
Business Solutions Injuries can happen to anyone, anywhere, and they account for more than 99 million days away from work each year.
Every day, millions of Americans go to work in high-risk environments, leaving their families to worry whether they will come home safe and sound.
Law enforcement professionals, emergency responders and constructions workers, for example, learn the art of being careful because safety clearly is vital to their well-being. However, environments like fire-ravaged Tennessee do not have a lock-and-hold on risk. More than 12,900 people are injured seriously at work every day, and many of them are not fighting fires, driving ambulances or laying cement.
Safety begins with understanding the biggest risks we face, regardless of where we work. The National Safety Council analyzes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track the most common workplace injuries and the top five may surprise you, particularly if you work in a seemingly safe environment.
1. Overexertion and bodily reaction
You do not need to lift heavy machinery to hurt yourself. A light package might pose as big a risk to your safety as trying to move an office desk. While overexertion injuries generally involve lifting, pulling or pushing, you also can be at risk for bodily reaction injuries when you perform relatively light duty tasks over and over again.
Workers who type for long periods of time often suffer repetitive injuries, while factory line workers who perform many lifting tasks are at risk for overexertion injuries. Because these tasks are so routine, we think little of our chances of being injured, but more than 322,000 people miss work because of overexertion each year. Stretching and taking frequent breaks can help reduce risk.
2. Coming into contact with objects or equipment
More than 232,000 people are injured each year from coming into contact with items such as swinging doors, materials falling off equipment or books falling from shelves. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, wear a hardhat in the appropriate work zones and stay up-to-date on safety training.
3. Slips, trips and falls
We often associate falling injuries with ladders or scaffolding, but falls from the same level are more common. Rugs and small spills seem harmless but can create catastrophes. All told, slips, trips and falls account for more than 229,000 injuries each year that require time away from work.
In addition to cleaning up spills and taping down rugs, place handrails in stairwells and use a ladder or step stool to reach high places.
4. Transportation incidents
Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of workplace deaths. These types of crashes are responsible for 44,000 serious injuries to workers each year. Distraction, lack of sleep, impairment and speed are leading crash factors.
Employers can help reduce employees’ risks by banning cell phone use while driving, providing regular breaks to avoid fatigue and accommodating workers who may need to take medications that impair their driving.
5. Exposure to harmful substances or environments
Electrocution, temperature extremes and contact with poisons or chemicals account for 40,100 serious injuries each year. Contact could be direct (such as touching an electrified fence) or indirect (such as grabbing an object that is touching a live wire). Workers also could be injured if they are working in extreme temperatures where they risk suffering from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia or frostbite.
Understand your surroundings and where you could unintentionally come in contact with electrical currents. Stay hydrated in the heat, bundle up during cold weather and take breaks to get out of the elements. Make sure all hazardous materials and chemicals are stored properly.
Every worker deserves to come home in the same condition he or she arrived at work. Taking small steps to reduce risk could mean the difference between a trip to the emergency room and a quiet day at the office — whether you sit behind a desk or respond to life-threatening situations.