It is every business owner, manager, and/or employer’s responsibility to make sure his or her business organisation is safe and secure, and that each employee is provided with a healthy and motivating working environment. After all, healthy and motivated employees always mean higher productivity and greater business expansion opportunities.
Workplace hazards include work practices, procedures, or the workplace setting itself that pose potential harm to the health, safety, and wellbeing of employees. Simply, a workplace hazard is any source of potential damage, harm, or severe health effects on the people in your business organisation.
It is then of vital importance that you, as an employer or business manager, understand and identify these potential workplace hazards in your organisation and design ways in preventing, if not altogether terminating these possible dangers.
In Australia, the following are the most common injuries and/or adverse effects on employees brought about by workplace hazards:
- Muscular stress brought about while handling or lifting heavy objects
- Trips and falls
- Strain and fatigue
- Injury from being hit by falling objects
- Machinery and equipment entanglement
- Workplace assault, violence, and bullying
- Psychological stress
Muscular stress brought about while handling or lifting heavy objects
Statistics reveal muscular stress while lifting or handling heavy objects is the most regular workplace injury suffered from by most Australian workers/employees working in Australia. In 2015, data reveal that 40 per cent of time off lodgment is because of muscular stress and its ill effects on employees.
This type of injury can be avoided if the company provides adequate staff training and supervision. In the construction industry, for example, all workers should have a white card that confirms they thoroughly understand potential workplace hazards and can and should demonstrate how to handle and/or maneuver objects, tools, and equipment safely and properly.
Trips and falls
The major causes of trips and falls, as reported by employees, are wet floors and cluttered floor spaces. To prevent or at least minimise injuries caused by trips and falls, install visible and brightly coloured signages that warn of wet floors and spills. Exposed cables and cords or other objects that cause obstacle should also be cleared or covered.
Make sure your workplace has the proper and sufficient first aid kits containing ice packs, ample supply of bandages, and other first aid necessities to promptly respond to the minor abrasions, bruises, and cuts caused by trips and falls at the workplace.
Strain and fatigue
Strain and fatigue are usually caused by overwork, or employees not taking their breaks because they won’t or can’t. Understand that it is of utmost importance to encourage, even require, your staff to take regular breaks and avoid overexertion at work.
Specific work tasks that require physical activity are usually prone to accidents and fatigue-related mishaps. Besides of course taking measures to prevent these kinds of accidents, it is also important that you have ample pain-relieving medicine and/or sprays in your workplace first aid box, to respond to these accidents promptly and appropriately.
Injury from being hit by falling objects
Although accounting for only 5 per cent of serious workplace-related injuries, falling objects are still the second most common cause of fatalities in the workplace.
To avoid such accidents, make sure all stationery, stock, and archives are properly arranged and kept in sturdy locations within the workplace. Avoid overpacking your storage areas and shelves.
To limit unnecessary employee exposure to falling objects, look into designing a separate storage facility/unit for objects that are not always used/utilised in the workplace.
In the event that an employee is hit by a falling object and suffers a concussion, make sure everyone at your organisation knows of and understands the contents of the first aid fact sheet outlining emergency measures to help minimise harm on the injury suffered from the said accident.
Machinery and equipment entanglement
Workplaces using heavy machinery and equipment should work to prevent and prepare for machine entanglement accidents. Unbound hair, jewelry, loose clothing, and finger(s) could get caught in machines and equipment resulting in a range of injuries including abrasions, cuts, amputations, or even death.
To minimise, if not prevent, the harm caused by machinery and equipment entanglement, require your workers to wear protective clothing, such as protective gloves and vests, all the time. Your machines and equipment should also have protective fasteners, guards, and/or barriers wherever applicable.
If in the event your worker suffers an injury caused by machinery and equipment entanglement and significant bleeding occurs, first aid measures should be promptly and appropriately undertaken, such as placing a bandage on the affected area to curb the loss of blood. Of course, always seek immediate medical attention for your injured employee.
Workplace assault, violence, and bullying
Aggression in the workplace, including assault, bullying, and other similar incidents, may escalate and result in severely harmful effects causing serious physical injuries and/or psychological trauma on your employees.
Though not on top of the most common causes of workplace-related injuries, it is important that your organisation has a sound and effective conflict resolution method in place, to appropriately respond to these incidents, if not altogether avoiding and terminating these kinds of work-related threats. Read more on workplace bullying investigation and resolution process here.
One of the most commonly overlooked workplace-related injuries—simply because it is not readily and outwardly evident—psychological stress caused by work-related factors can be very real in your organisation.
The work-related stress, leading to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues should always be a part of your watch-out-for plan in designing a method to prevent any kind of workplace-related injuries.
There are many factors and stimuli in the workplace that can lead to psychological stress, so it is critical that you and your organisation’s management and human resource (HR) departments make sure that your workplace is as safe, secure, and healthy as possible, minimising or preventing the occurrence of these factors and stimuli.
It is also important that your employees and everyone else in your business organisation are equipped with the proper education on mental health and how to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle within and without the workplace to minimise or avoid stressors that may lead to harmful effects on every employee’s mental health and wellbeing.
Armed with proper knowledge on the different workplace-related injuries and dangers, you, as an employer and/or business owner/manager will now work to make sure these can be prevented. To do this, you need to:
- Identify what causes harm
- Check and assess risks
- Control or terminate risks
- Evaluate control measures
Identify what causes harm
Now that you have identified the most common causes of workplace-related injuries, you need to proceed with determining the specific areas, features, machines, and equipment in your workplace that may pose a danger to your employees’ health and wellbeing. Consider forming a group or team to help you identify and locate these possible sources of danger, and make a complete list of these locations and features.
Check and assess risks
Next, you proceed by understanding the nature of the harm or danger that could be caused by the workplace-related hazard, including how serious it could be and the likelihood of it happening or occuring.
Control or terminate risks
With the list you and your team have compiled and after evaluating and determining the nature of the possible harm or danger, you now design and implement the most effective and practical control measures to minimise, prevent, if not altogether terminate the dangers or harm posed by these specific risks.
This will involve your employees, too, and their commitment to your organisation’s safety and security guidelines and measures.
Evaluate control measures
After designing and implementing your workplace safety and security measures, make sure they are regularly and appropriately evaluated, upgraded, or modified whenever necessary. No system is full-proof and your workplace is one of the most dynamic parts of your business organisation, so always make sure you ante up your risk control measures and strategies.
Once you’ve considered and undertaken all measures discussed above, you are ensured of a safe and healthy workplace. A safe and healthy working environment carries and exhibits the following elements:
- Workers are protected from unsafe and harmful threats that pose a risk or danger to their health, safety, and welfare,
- Employees’ health and well-being are considered vital by the organisation, which will result to
- Higher productivity bringing in more value to your business and opportunities for success.
It important that you, as an employer, business manager, and/or business owner sufficiently prepare for potential dangers and workplace-related injuries in your organisation.
What is of utmost importance and necessity, however, is the efficacy of your workplace risk control measures, and how you and the rest of all the people within your organisation work together to make sure all workplace-related injuries and dangers are minimised, if not prevented or terminated altogether.