Common Workplace Safety Procedures [And Why They’re Important]

August 9, 2019 in Safety and Inspections

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 US alone! As a safety manager, plant manager, or general manager, it is your duty to enforce procedures that help ensure your workers will not be included in this statistic.

The best way to prevent injuries in the workplace is to implement a rigorous safety program that will educate and empower your team to avoid injuries. With the right structure, your team will be happy to enforce those standards because, after all, nobody wants to get hurt at work.

Implementing safety standards is a meaningful way to let your employees know that you are looking out for them. More often than not, injuries occur due to lack of education and enforcement around the various hazards present at their worksite. Offering simple safety procedures to address those hazards is the first step to develop a healthy work environment.

What Exactly are Safety Procedures?

If you think about it, safety procedures are all around us. From simple reminders on the wall that remind employees to wash their hands, to construction workers being required to wear ear protection when loud equipment is used on-site.

Safety procedures can be defined as standardized methods that describe how to conduct tasks to minimize risks to people, environment, processes, and materials.

For better or worse, any good safety manager adheres to Murphy’s law — “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” When it comes to protecting your business and employees, it’s critical to minimize the opportunities for things to go wrong.

And that’s why I’m are here today: to help you to craft your company’s safety procedures and ensure your employees will be safe from work-related injuries. Here are some examples of the most common workplace hazards, their corresponding safety procedures, and why they are essential:

How to Prevent Forklift Accidents

OSHA states in its 29 CFR 1910.178 standard language that forklifts must be inspected daily — or before each shift in case the vehicle is not used daily. Here is how you do it:

Safety Procedure: Forklift Pre-Operational Checklist

If you do not have a pre-operational checklist already established, it is time to create one. These are the most common aspects that you should include in your list:

  • Check for leaks, and other visible defects everywhere on the forklift;
  • Evaluate the tire pressure and overall condition;
  • Test the brakes and the steering controls;
  • Check if the seat belt is functioning correctly;
  • Verify the forks’ status, including the top clip retaining pin and heel;
  • Check all fluid levels (including hydraulic, transmission and brake);
  • Ensure the manual compartment is clean of debris;
  • Check functionality of finger guards;
  • Check hydraulic hoses and mast chains (visually);
  • Ensure load backrest extension functionality;

Keep in mind that forklift manufacturers provide customers with inspection details specific to each model.

Another point to take into consideration, besides checking the forklift functionality, is to ensure the balance of the materials stacked up in the fork. Tip-overs are one of the most dangerous accidents that a forklift can cause.

Forklifts can weigh up to 9,000 pounds. Most accidents in tip-overs actually occur when the operator of the forklift jumps off when the forklift starts to tilt. This often makes the situation worse because the forklift can fall on the worker — causing a severe injury or even death.

To that end, make sure you impose a limit of materials that an employee can carry on a forklift that is compliant with the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid this type of accident.

Why is This Safety Procedure Important?

Forklift accidents account for 10% of all workplace physical injuries. This means that more than 34,000 workers suffer a serious injury every year by a forklift accident.

But according to OSHA, more than two-thirds of these accidents could be prevented. Hence, the importance of implementing forklift safety procedures.

How to Prevent a Fire Emergency

Contrary to what most people think, most fires can be avoided or quickly contained if the right safety procedures are in place:

Safety Procedure: Fire Prevention Checklist

It is essential to implement daily or weekly inspections to prevent workplace fires. These are the most critical aspects that you should include in your checklist:

  • Verify if there is any obstruction in escape routes;
  • Check if the extinguishers are in good condition;
  • Check if fireman lift sign is legible;
  • Ensure that the fire hydrants and hose reels system are functioning correctly;
  • Ensure that loads on racks are not over-stacked (this might bring them too close to a sprinkler head and limit the sprinkler’s efficiency in an emergency situation);
  • Inspect the building ventilating system at least once per year;
  • Ensure cords are not daisy-chained (daisy-chained cords can overdraw electricity from the circuits and cause the wires to heat up and potentially result in a fire);
  • Ensure that the circuits are not overloaded;
  • Turn off electrical appliances at the end of the work-day;
  • Maintain machines that produce heat away from any inflammable material;
  • Remove every waste paper, trash, and materials that can easily catch fire.

Why is This Safety Procedure Important?

Fires and explosions cost companies billions of dollars every year. Not to mention the precious lives that a fire can take away.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more than 37,000 fires at industrial or manufacturing properties every year.

How to Prevent a Slip or a Trip

Slippery surfaces and lack of lighting are the main aspects to pay attention when it comes to fall prevention. Here is how to make your workers stay away from these hazards:

Safety Procedure: Workplace Safety Review

There are many details in the workplace environment that you can proactively manage to lower the risk of injury. If you do not have a workplace safety review established, these are some of the details to include on it:

  • Cover cords and cables in walkways;
  • Clean up spills immediately;
  • Place a “wet floor” signs when you cannot dry it;
  • Encourage employees to use closed shoes;
  • Ensure cabinets and drawers are shut when nobody is using it;
  • Check if there is proper lighting everywhere in the building;
  • Watch for potential hazard areas such as unexpected steps or uneven ground and use signage to increase attentiveness;
  • Ensure stairs handrails are securely placed

Even though slips and trips happen are common, oftentimes, they are entirely preventable. Implementing rigorous inspections to monitor workplace environmental hazards is critical to preventing these types of injuries. While most trips and falls do not lead to severe injuries, they can cost businesses significant amounts of cash in worker’s compensation claims.

Remember, most of these incidents are preventable with proactive inspection plans in place.

Why is This Safety Procedure Important?

Slips and trips are the most common cause of falls. These are the leading cause of workplace injuries — from small bruises to more serious head traumas.

In fact, slips, trips, and falls are often reported as the most common cause of employees’ compensation claims. Compensation associated with employees’ falls is almost $70 billion every year. But the thing is, it is not hard to avoid them.

How to Prevent an Accidental Start-up of a Machine

It is vital to ensure that machines will never start-up or otherwise put equipment into motion unintentionally or without everyone on-site prepared. Some facilities and equipment can move heavy objects outside of the operator’s field of view and other equipment, if not properly shut down, may start up again without warning. Here are a few steps you need to take to avoid this situation:

Safety Procedure: Lockout/”Tagout” (LOTO) Checklist

Machinery such as mills, lathes, and grinders offer high risk for workers if they are not properly locked out during a service. That’s because an unexpected restart can catch the operator by surprise and lead to a serious accident.

A lockout/tag-out procedure should include at least these following steps:

  1. Investigate the primary energy sources (hazards) that will need to be controlled;
  2. Inform supervisor and every employee related to the machine;
  3. Isolate the machine from any type of energy source ( for instance, turning off the power or shutting a valve);
  4. Assign one worker to be responsible for the lockout;
  5. Attach a lockout device to each energy-isolating device;
  6. Attach “tag-out” device (tag with assigned worker name) to each energy-isolating device;
  7. Check for residual energy still stored within the machine;
  8. Verify if the machine has been properly isolated and de-energized.

Why is This Safety Procedure Important?

According to OSHA, following these lockout/tagout procedures can help prevent an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.

Consider this situation: An employee is conducting service in a press. Then, another worker, unaware of the service, comes by and starts the press. As a result, the employee performing the service is caught up in the press, causing an amputation.

Enough said.

How to Prevent an Accident Involving Chemicals

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard states that employers are responsible for informing and protecting workers from the chemical hazards present in the workplace:

Safety Procedure: Chemical Control System

When employees are handling chemicals in the workplace, it is critical to make them aware of the company’s chemical control system. Safety procedures must be made for each unique chemical to prevent the unique hazards they bring to the worksite.

These are some essential steps to be listed in your chemical control system:

  • List every chemical (and its characteristics) in an accessible report;
  • Store chemicals away from inflammable material and gas cylinders;
  • Ensure chemicals are stored with closed lids when not in use;
  • Secure combustible material in fireproof cupboards;
  • Refrain from storing chemicals in a package that it is not its original package;
  • Label every chemical with all its components’ information;
  • Use personal protection equipment (PPE) when necessary;
  • Ensure First Aid Kit is always stocked and ready to be used;
  • Check for chemical spills on a regular basis;
  • Read the material safety data sheet (MSDS) before using any chemical.

Why is This Safety Procedure Important

For starters, it’s the law in the USA. You must comply with OSHA’s regulations. Most importantly, your employees suffer a high risk of being poisoned, getting skin rashes or burns, or potentially developing more serious problems that can result in nervous system disorders or death.

More than 30 million workers are exposed to chemical hazards. Additionally, there are almost 700,000 existing chemical products and new ones being created at a rapid pace. This represents a significant risk that needs to be addressed.

Safety Procedures’ Bottom Line

You can prevent the majority of unsafe conditions before they result in injury or in an emergency.

Taking care of your employees’ safety is an enormous responsibility. I understand that it can be overwhelming to think about all the hazards that need to be addressed.

You can reference this article to start recognizing the main risks that apply to your workplace and to develop the corresponding safety procedures.

Once you’ve identified the necessary procedures, the next step will be to implement them. Communication, education, and compliance are vital components to execute when it comes to implementation.

I recommend using a digital solution like MaintainX — to achieve the best results.

With MaintainX, you can create repeating checklists and assign specific workers to conduct safety procedures. This feature allows you to have real-time visibility as to when the procedure is executed, who was responsible for it and where it is being performed.

If your business is subject to inspections and audits from regulators and safety organizations, it is helpful to have all your records stored in one, easy to access location. Keeping a record of these inspections not only helps ensure compliance but can also save your business if you need to prove specific procedures were performed on a given day.

Even the most rigorous safety manager can’t be everywhere at once. It is crucial to empower your employees to identify unsafe behaviors and hazards so they can report issues that need repair. Successful workplace safety procedures can be measured by how well people adhere to the safety standards on a daily basis.

So keep in mind, safety first.

Because at the end of the day, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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