How to Protect Your Employees (and Company) Against Workplace Accidents

By Katrina McKinnon

Posted Mar 12th, 2020 in Tips & News

How to Protect Your Employees (and Company) Against Workplace Accidents

Workplace accidents are disruptive. They lead to loss of productivity, lower morale when people have to pick up the slack, and unnecessary costs. It is better to plan ahead than to be reactive. Negligence can have grave financial and legal consequences.
The best way to protect your company and employees is to create a culture of safety. Put in place systems, traditions and measures that prevent the occurrence of accidents. Most common causes of accidents are usually preventable.
According to the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, more than 950 workers die on the job each year. In addition, there are over 250,000 accepted claims for lost time annually as a result of injuries and illness acquired in the workplace.

Common Causes of Workplace Accidents

1.   Improper Work Practices

Does your workplace have practices that keep employees safe and out of harm’s way? Lack of breaks, poor lighting and dehydration have an adverse effect on the bodies of your staff members. Breaks are essential to help the body recover from manual tasks. These tasks are physically demanding, and it’s important to take care of your employees.

Dehydration also leads to workplace injuries, especially on hot summer days where one can get heatstroke or strain a cardiac condition. It’s important to provide a source of water for your employees to prevent issues. The best way to ensure staff stay hydrated is to have water in the break area so they can hydrate as they take a breather.

Do you handle hazardous material at your workplace? Improper handling without protective gear is a common cause of accidents. This can be easily solved with proper lighting and the correct gear.

2. Falls from Working or Placement of Equipment

Even if your staff doesn’t deal with ladders and scaffolding, other causes exist. Did you know 42,000 Canadians are injured each year from falls. 66% of these are from slips and trips on the same level.  Falling from a height, such as from scaffolding or ladders only accounts for 34% of workplace injuries resulting from falls.

When you carry out a risk assessment of your workplace, look out for areas that increase the chances of someone tripping or slipping. They can also result from spills, slippery floors, obstructions and broken equipment. Lack of adequate safety and warning signage can also lead to preventable accidents.

3. Wrong or Ill-fitting Workwear

Ill-fitting uniforms can be a result of bad design, the wrong size and inappropriate fabric.Maximum comfort and ease of movement are essential, especially for industrial roles where staff need to move around often.
Baggy clothes are also a workplace hazard. They can be caught on something and lead to breakages and injuries. They could also expose the staff to hazardous substances when a loose sleeve dips into chemicals. A well-fitting uniform is neither tight nor loose. It’s just right.

How to Prevent Workplace Accidents

It’s not unusual to see one accident cost a business dearly. Between the medical bills. loss of productivity, workers’ compensation and cost of repair, the price tag is high. This should be enough motivation to implement safety measures.

Your goal should be to create an effective prevention and wellness program. It needs to cover all levels of safety, training and reporting of hazardous material or behaviour. Prevention is your ally in the fight against workplace accidents.

1.   Educate Staff and Management on Safety Standards

Does your team understand what they need to do to stay safe? Ensure everyone has safety training relating to the hazards of their jobs. You can organize in-house sessions or take advantage of the Environmental Health and Safety online training programs. It’s the duty of each employee to take an active role in creating a safe environment.

When choosing or issuing protective clothing, get the precise measurements so the workwear is just the right size. This is important for your staff’s safety and to allow flawless performance at work.

Do not use the sizes for regular clothes to choose or issue uniforms. The sizing of uniforms works differently and varies from brand to brand or manufacturer. Get new measurements each time you get a new vendor and have all your staff members measured. Alsco NZ does this for you and sources the perfect uniform for your team.

2. Identify Safety Vulnerabilities

Take a look around your office or workplace through the eyes of a risk inspector. What are the potential hazards? How can you eliminate them? What tactics can you put in place to reduce them? Hazards are always around you. Identify and cut them as soon as possible.

A good tool to use for this analysis is the EHS Job Hazard Analysis from the University of Ohio. It helps you identify the hazards associated with different job types. When you do, report unsafe areas and practices.

3.  Implement Safety Control Measures

Once you have identified the hazards, make a plan to implement control measures that reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents. There are different categories of controls you can use for different levels of effectiveness. This hierarchy of controls diagram shows the different controls you can use.

Review your organization’s safety policies once a year to ensure they remain relevant to the risks your employees currently face. If you make changes in how you do a certain task or move locations, your health and safety team should update the policies as well. As soon as you update it, send an email to inform everyone of the changes.

4. Monitor Safety and Compliance

Workplace hazards show up as surprises. They can crop up at any time and though some may be avoidable, you need to take steps to keep your employees safe. To test the preparedness of your staff, carry out random safety drills. This will let you see any gaps in training or preparedness.

The drills are helpful for swift action in case of an accident or emergency. When your staff is confident about what to do in the face of disaster or stress, you will reduce potential damages. For instance, your employees should know how to move in an orderly way in case of a fire.

5. Maintain Company Vehicles

Avoid all shortcuts when it comes to safety. Shortcuts can be lifesavers when on a deadline but are fatal for safety. This is especially true when it comes to machine maintenance. Your staff's health is your first priority, so take care to remove anything that could compromise it.For all your vehicles, inspect and maintain them regularly. This includes monthly inspections and repairing vehicles as soon as they have a problem.

6. Provide Safety Equipment

Employers have an obligation to provide protective equipment as a result of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The hazards range from lifting heavy objects to exposure to bacteria. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide and pay for protective equipment and clothing.

Get the correct protective clothing for your industry. When you are ordering uniforms, get a vendor who understands how to measure workwear. Do not use regular clothes sizes for protective clothing.

7. Maintain a Cleanliness and Wellness Routine

An orderly workplace reduces the risk of having workplace accidents. Create a safe workplace through good housekeeping. Poor housekeeping can lead to fatal health and safety hazards. This also includes creating adequate egress routes free of debris.
A defined wellness routine helps your staff keep up with the safety procedures. They include things like:
  • Take scheduled breaks throughout the day to remove the danger of standing in a static position.
  • Pay attention to workstation ergonomics and get staff comfortable with their working conditions.
  • Use safe lifting techniques to keep your staff safe. They include lifting from a place of power, keeping the load close and using a staggered stance.
  • Have adequate staff at each station to prevent overworking and fatigue.
  • Train the staff in body mechanics to reduce strain injuries during lifting and moving

What Next?

Workplace accident prevention should be a priority for companies that want to grow. Your staff is your first priority, and you should ensure the company is legally protected and compliant.

Before hiring people, you can conduct pre-placement physicals to confirm physical fitness. This is crucial in roles that handle manual tasks and need physical agility and strength.

Review and monitor your safety measures and policies. Arrange for training each time your staff needs a refresher and reward the employees who champion the policies.

When it comes to protective gear, get a reputable vendor to save you the hassle of sourcing and maintaining high-quality uniforms. A reliable vendor makes life so much easier.

Article contribution by Alsco New Zealand. Alsco aims to help create a healthier and safer workplace by providing affordable yet high-quality uniform rental service and hospital-grade first aid solutions.

Get an evaluation of your workplace and get on track with safety and compliance.

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