Blueprints for Safer Workplaces
Every year, Ministries of Labour outline their strategies to protect workers from workplace injury and illness. Commitment to providing timely, relevant information continues for various workplace sectors throughout 2012. Ministries of Labour are committed to innovation, transparency and partnership, while protecting the public interest. Each workplace sector, whether Construction, Industrial, Mining, Health Care, or Specialized Professional Services is given careful consideration. Each sector represents different challenges and opportunities for health and safety partners in the ongoing effort to keep workers safe. In this way businesses are able to focus health and safety initiatives to help them operate in a healthy and safe manner.
Dealing with an unsafe workplace
The first step to protecting workers is to recognize hazards in the work environment.
Physical hazards are very common in most workplaces, usually easy to spot; however, often overlooked. They can cause injury, illness and even death.
Physical hazards include:
- Electrical hazards
- Unguarded machinery
- Constant loud noise
- High exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet rays, heat or cold
- Working from heights or raised work areas
- Working with mobile equipment
For workers who are sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions and substances can cause illness, skin irritation or breathing problems.
Types of chemical hazards to be aware of include:
- Cleaning products, paints, acids and especially chemicals in unlabelled containers
- Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide and helium
- Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents and explosive chemicals
Musculoskeletal (MSD) disorder hazards
These workplace hazards pose risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system. They may be hard to identify because workers don't immediately notice the strain put on the body. Short-term exposure may result in sore muscles but, long-term exposure can result in more serious injuries.
Hazards contributing to MSDs include:
- Poor lighting
- Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs
- Frequent lifting
- Awkward posture
- Awkward movements, especially if repetitive and forceful
Biological hazards are typically found when working with animals, people or infectious plant materials.
Biological hazards include:
- Blood and other body fluids
- Bacteria and viruses
- Insect bites
The 3 R's to Safety
1. Recognize the hazard
Some hazards are easy to spot; however, there are many hidden hazards, e.g. faulty equipment or machinery that are easily overlooked or missed. It is important that all suspected hazards be reported immediately to prevent potential harm to people or equipment.
2. Report the hazard
Reporting a workplace hazard is the only way to rectify a situation before it becomes a problem, in order to protect all workers.
3. Remove or resolve the hazard
Once reported, a hazard must be addressed by management, and resolved to ensure worker safety. If the problem isn't properly addressed, workers have the right to refuse to work.
Whether you're the president, manager or worker, you are part of your workplace's "internal responsibility system" and you play an important role in keeping your workplace healthy and safe.