August 9, 2019SAFETY AND INSPECTIONS
The Most Common Workplace Safety Procedures [And Why They’re Important]
According to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds in the United States. Sadly, many of these workplace injuries are serious. The organization says 4,493 preventable workplace deaths occurred in 2018. Why did these unnecessary tragedies occur?
While it’s impossible to speculate exactly what happened in each situation, the associated facilities likely failed to standardize and enforce recommended safety procedures. Safety, plant, and general managers are responsible for adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs) that protect co-workers from harm. Good safety managers follow Murphy’s law for better or worse: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for facility managers and maintenance technicians to neglect following safety rules when things get busy. Safety procedures alone don’t protect workers from injuries—leadership must enforce them within safety training programs that empower employees to make good choices.
In this article, we’ll review some of the most common industrial and office workplace hazards along with standardized work procedures for avoiding them. We’ll also make suggestions for improving compliance, digitizing safety audit trails, and saving time as a facility manager.
Let’s begin by defining workplace safety procedures.
What Are Workplace Safety Procedures?
Workplace safety procedures are standardized processes that outline how to conduct tasks with minimal risk to people, materials, and work environments. The procedures include work-related tasks that address safety concerns, safety equipment, and work-area precautions.
Organizations can measure the success of their occupational safety procedures by how consistently they are followed. Thus, it’s crucial to empower employees with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to avoid potential hazards.
When developing workplace safety procedures, it’s essential to conduct thorough risk assessments of all types of potential risks. Let’s look at the most common types of risks and their associated safety procedures.
Types of Safety Procedures
Unsafe conditions fall into several categories warranting the following types of safety procedures:
- Physical: Physical hazards are environmental factors that can cause harm to employees without necessarily touching them. Examples include pressure, radiation, noise, and heights.
- Safety: Safety hazards include exposed wires that trip employees, electrical hazards that shock them, and any object that causes work-related injuries via contact.
- Ergonomic: Ergonomic hazards are physical factors that damage the employees’ musculoskeletal system. Examples include overly repetitive movements, uncomfortable seats that result in poor posture, and poorly set up workstations.
- Chemical: This category includes threats posed by hazardous substances that can cause severe injury and/or health risks. Chemical exposure can result in skin irritation, blindness, respiratory system irritation, corrosion, and explosions.
- Biological: Examples of biological hazards include animals, insects, bacteria, and viruses that can adversely affect employee health. They often result from mold, bodily fluids such as blood, dust, vermin, sewage, and harmful plants in working environments.
- Psychological: These refer to hazards that impact employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Examples include workplace violence, stress, victimization, and sexual harassment.
It’s important to consider all of these categories when developing safety procedures to protect employees. Neglect can jeopardize employees’ well being and result in custodial and financial penalties for the organization.
The 4 Most Common Industrial Safety Hazards
1. Forklift Accidents
Forklift accidents resulted in 79 U.S. worksite deaths and 8,140 injuries in 2019, according to Injury Facts. What makes these machines so hazardous? They can weigh as much as 9,000 pounds and are prone to tipping when overloaded.
Unfortunately, forklifts are known to sometimes fall on machine operators when they jump off during tip-overs. The good news is most forklift accidents are preventable. Developing preoperative checklists can help prevent forklift accidents on the job site.
OSHA provides recommended guidelines for preventing forklift accidents in plants, factories, and manufacturing facilities. For example, organizations are encouraged to prohibit uncertified drivers and those below 18 years of age from operating the vehicles.
Tasks to include on forklift safety checklists include:
- Check for leaks and other visible defects.
- Ensure the load backrest extension is functioning.
- Inspect the hydraulic hoses and mast chains.
- Ensure the finger guards are functioning well.
- Clear debris off the manual compartment.
- Ensure operators are wearing hard hats.
- Inspect fluid levels, including brake, hydraulic, and transmission fluids.
- Ensure the seat belt is functional.
- Test the steering controls and brakes.
- Evaluate the overall condition of the forklift, including the tire pressure.
Additionally, every forklift comes with manufacturer recommendations for inspection and maintenance specific to the model. Perform the suggested preventive maintenance (PM) to keep vehicles in top-performing condition. Finally, operators should evenly distribute materials evenly to prevent the forklift from toppling over.
2. Fire Incidents
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 99 worker fatalities resulted from workplace fires and explosions in 2019. Industrial and manufacturing plants deal with more than 37,000 fire incidents each year. And organizations lose billions of dollars to accidental fires and explosions every year. Of course, the right safety procedures can contain fire incidents in their initial stages.
Tasks to include on fire safety checklists:
- Ensure fire extinguishers are in good working condition.
- Check that fireman lift signs are visible and legible.
- Ensure fire hydrants and hose reels are functional.
- Inspect and clean building ventilation systems.
- Keep inflammable materials away from machines known to overheat.
- Remove obstructions from emergency exits.
- Check that electrical circuits aren’t overloaded.
- Keep appropriate fire-protection gear on hand.
- Turn off electrical appliances not in use.
- Properly dispose of paper, trash, and other flammable materials.
- Keep electrical cords separated instead of daisy-chaining them.
Additionally, organizations should install fire alarms and smoke detectors to alert them of fire breakouts as soon as possible.
3. Accidental Slips and Falls
According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), more than 1 million visits to the hospital emergency room result from accidental slips and falls. And approximately 5 percent of those individuals suffer fractures.
Slips and falls rarely result in fatalities. However, they can cause organizations to fall behind on production goals and lose money to employee compensation claims. A little-known fact: slips and falls are the leading cause of employee compensation claims in the United States. Most of these accidents result from slippery surfaces and low lighting in facilities.
Safety procedures that prevent slips and falls:
- Display slip signs when cleaning.
- Immediately clean spills with appropriate solutions.
- Cover cords and cables likely to cause trips.
- Wear closed-toe shoes and keep laces tied.
- Close drawers and cabinets immediately after use.
- Ensure proper lighting throughout buildings.
- Place signs in hazardous areas such as uneven grounds.
- Securely place handrails alongside stairs.
Slips and falls are preventable if everyone exercises enough caution. Regular inspections and proactive maintenance can also help ensure that facilities are in good working order to avoid slips and falls.
4. Accidental Machine Start-Ups
Machines can sometimes accidentally turn on during maintenance or servicing. In most cases, these accidents are fatal or result in permanent disability. For this reason, it’s vital to ensure electrical equipment pieces are correctly shut down and locked during maintenance servicing.
Operators should only restart machines once it’s safe to do so—this industrial safety process is known as Lockout Tagout. This safety procedure helps prevent about 50,000 injuries and 120 fatalities each year, according to OSHA. Lockout Tagout involves using locking mechanisms to lock machines in place and visual signage to tag equipment with warnings to not use the equipment.
Lockout Tagout procedures include the following steps:
- Step 1: Identify the asset to be locked and tagged out, its specific location, energy sources, and procedures for shutting down and restarting the asset.
- Step 2: Notify employees of the intended shutdown and the duration the asset will be unavailable.
- Step 3: Shut down the asset following the outlined procedures.
- Step 4: Disconnect the asset’s primary energy sources. These may include compressed air, gas, water, steam, and electricity.
- Step 5: Disconnect the secondary sources of energy. These may include residual energy, such as trapped heat, pressures, fumes, and spring tension.
- Step 6: Lockout the assets and tag them with a Lockout Tagout device. A designated maintenance person authorized to install and remove the device should be the only person administering this process. The device should remain in place during shift changes.
- Step 7: Once maintenance work is completed, authorized personnel can remove Lockout Tagout devices and turn equipment back on.
It’s crucial for organizations to periodically review and update their Lockout Tagout procedures in line with asset changes, no matter how minor.
5. Chemical Accidents
According to OSHA, organizations use approximately 650,000 different types of chemicals in the workplace each year.
Around 32 million workers are exposed to one or more hazardous chemicals on the job. Hazards associated with chemical exposure include skin burns and rashes, poisoning, nervous system disorders, and death. For these reasons, employers must do everything possible to protect workers from mishandling and incorrectly interacting with chemicals.
OSHA chemical safety checklists often instruct workers to:
- Label every chemical product and note its side effects.
- Ensure chemicals are properly stored away from other employees. Only those who work with chemicals should have access to them.
- Provide workers with personal protective equipment when handling chemicals.
- Store combustible chemicals in fireproof storage units.
- Store chemicals in their original packaging.
- Stock plenty of readily available First Aid kits.
- Check for chemical spills within periodic timeframes.
Additionally, employers are encouraged to train employees on first-aid basics in case of accidental exposure to chemicals. Further, all employees should sign-off on reading and understanding safety data sheets (MSDS) before using chemicals.
The 8 Most Common Office Safety Hazards
Not surprisingly, industrial warehouses, plants, and factories usually implement more comprehensive safety procedures than their office-dwelling counterparts.
These workers often operate complex machinery and more frequently come into contact with high-risk materials that require crucial care. But that doesn’t mean office workers shouldn’t also follow recommended guidelines.
In early 2020, office spaces became increasingly concerned with enforcing sanitation checklists to protect employees from COVID-19. However, there are also common safety hazards that management teams aim to mitigate in desk environments.
The most common office safety hazards include:
- Falls (from loose debris and uneven surfaces)
- Ergonomic strains (from repetitive movements and poor posture)
- Eye strains (from computer monitors)
- Fire outbreaks
- Poor air quality
- Exposure to chemical and biological hazards
Obviously, the above safety hazards require less explanation than those experienced by industrial workers operating complex equipment. As such, mitigating risk requires much less effort in an office environment. Check out Health and Safety Magazine’s “Recognizing Hidden Dangers: 25 Steps to a Safer Office” for more information.
Office managers and warehouse managers can enhance compliance through safety audit checklists. The easiest way to organize an exceptional workplace safety program? Go digital!
Enhance Compliance with Safety Procedure Digitization
As discussed, employees can be exposed to many potential safety hazards in both industrial and office environments. The best way to organize safety audits, and reduce the stress of enforcement, is to assign checklists as preventive maintenance work orders via a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS).
A CMMS is a centralized digital platform that organizes a company’s maintenance operations, streamlines procedures of all types—safety audits, quality control, preventive maintenance—and eliminates paper checklists.
Though the technology has historically been the domain of warehouses, modern CMMS is now accessible to all industries. With cloud-based apps, organizations, both small and large, can download an app, create a digital checklist, and assign it to employees within minutes.
Benefits of digitizing workplace safety procedures include:
- Simplifying Management Oversight: Makes it easier to track and standardize hazards and mitigation processes.
- Enhancing Communication: Some CMMS platforms, like MaintainX, even include team messaging that allows real-time troubleshooting.
- Saving Time: Managers can quickly create, assign, and edit digital checklist templates easily accessible via mobile devices.
- Reducing Confusion: Handovers of duty fulfillment are easier to facilitate during employee shift changes.
- Increasing Transparency: Everyone knows who is working on what assignment via the CMMS work order calendar.
- Streamlining Audits: Managers can easily handover exported digital records to comply with regulatory audits.
- Improving Efficiency: CMMS provides access to key performance indicators (KPIs) that highlight opportunities for improvement.
The bottom line: digital workplace safety tools make it easier for organizations to monitor, predict, and prevent safety vulnerabilities.
Safety Procedure Resources
OSHA provides several resources to help organizations improve their workplace safety. Below are some of their most useful publications and a couple of other noteworthy guides:
- Missouri Labor: Managing Worker Safety and Health
Stay Safe with MaintainX
Both large organizations and small businesses must do everything they can to comply with safety regulations. Failing to enforce safe work practices can result in employee harm, property damage, litigation, and workers’ compensation. Organizing workplace safety protocols with digital compliance tools is the easiest way to meet regulations.
MaintainX’s mobile CMMS makes it easy to:
- Create, assign, and monitor editable checklists.
- Monitor compliance with real-time updates.
- Chat with co-workers via instant messaging.
- Maintain digital audit trials of compliance.
- Upload and share important documents.
Employees can access business checklists, important documents, and safety policies from the convenience of their smartphones. If you think MaintainX can help your organization enhance employee, customer, and stakeholder safety, we invite you to download our freemium app now.
Click here to get started with MaintainX.