Our Global Geniuses Answer Your Top Safety Questions
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Safety is critical for the success of all operations — from education and material handling to health care and construction — no matter their size. In this article, Global Industrial product experts share their answers to common safety-related questions, so you can keep your team injury-free and your business going strong.
What are some myths around fall protection, and how can I prevent or mitigate falls?
The first misconception is that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides standards for the lifespan of safety equipment. It’s actually the manufacturer that defines the lifespan of work safety gear, and it’s critical to adhere to each manufacturer’s guidance when establishing your company’s safety or fall prevention protocols and procedures. Here are a few other best practices to consider:
- Establish an equipment inspection protocol to ensure workers inspect devices and document that inspection before each use.
- Designate a supervising or managerial staff member to annually inspect the equipment, document their assessment, and replace any items showing signs of wear.
Another misconception is that workers can use body belts solely as a fall restraint system when, in fact, this can cause injury. Unlike a body belt, a full-body harness will distribute the force of the fall throughout the trunk of the body, ultimately reducing potential injury.
When it comes to fall mitigation, you should conduct a job-hazard analysis for the work done by each type of employee, whether it’s a receptionist or an equipment operator on the loading dock. This safety analysis will help you understand and document the fall risks of each job. It also allows you to develop practices and protocols to protect each employee and determine the proper work safety gear. Make sure to evaluate your safety plan and work areas annually, adjusting where needed.
However, plan development and execution are only the first steps in a successful fall safety strategy. You must also regularly (at least once per year) train employees to correctly use fall protection equipment, fall restraints, and work safety gear
What options exist beyond back and joint supports to improve ergonomics for my workers and help them avoid injuries?
The use of support gear isn’t the only way to improve ergonomics. In fact, designing your workspace with principles of ergonomics in mind can help avoid the need for such gear in the first place. One way to do that is to provide material handling equipment such as pallet trucks, conveyors, hoists, and lift tables, which can significantly reduce strain and the risk of injury for employees.
The Hierarchy of Controls, established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, indicates that personal protective equipment is the lowest priority when it comes to mitigating exposure to workplace hazards. Though PPE can increase comfort, in many cases it gives the worker false confidence as they continue performing the task incorrectly. A better option is to eliminate the hazard by making changes to the work area and providing training.
Here are a few ways to mitigate foundational ergonomic issues:
- Install configurable workbenches so employees can adjust the height of their project area, reducing unnecessary twisting, bending, and lower-back strain.
- Incorporate conveyors so your team can easily move heavy loads to the next station rather than straining their back or neck when lifting or carrying.
- Institute mobile scissor lift tables to elevate heavy items to waist level and allow for easy transport to conveyors.
- Add proper lighting so office or warehouse workers can easily view their task or computer screen without leaning closer to the project and putting pressure on their lower back.
- Change work assignments when possible, so an employee doesn’t incur repetitive motion injuries.
Where could safety risks be hiding in plain sight?
The short answer is: everywhere. Safety hazards can exist in every area of an operation, from the office to the warehouse to the loading docks. That’s why it’s important for an OSHA compliance officer to evaluate facilities at least once every two years. Even better, hire a full-time professional safety specialist to manage and lead your program. Here are a few examples of ways these technicians can improve workplace safety:
- Identify risks and institute protective measures to relieve them.
- Communicate hazards and risks to prevent employee injury.
- Develop and/or improve your company’s safety program.
- Create and implement mitigation tools and programs.
- Teach employees about company safety protocols.
- Complete routine audits and inspections.
- Conduct follow-up investigations in the event of an accident to determine the cause and provide a solution.
- Perform annual employee safety training.
Your safety and health officer should have the singular responsibility of keeping the workplace safe, which includes evaluating how to keep workers injury-free as well as supporting continuous improvement.
These designated safety officers also should excel with interpersonal skills, so they’re able to gently but effectively communicate safety protocols to fellow employees. Just keep in mind that a safety coordinator isn’t a hall monitor. It’s still up to managerial staff and individual employees to regularly follow company safety procedures.
Have more questions about improving safety at your facility? Contact Global Industrial’s product experts today for help finding the right work safety gear and equipment for your team.
The information contained in this article is for informational, educational, and promotional purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. It is the reader’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, rules, codes and regulations. If there is any question or doubt in regard to any element contained in this article, please consult a licensed professional. Under no circumstances will Global Industrial be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on this article.