Safety Awareness for New Employees
Starting a new job always gives you plenty to think about, there's learning your new responsibilities and procedures, meeting new co-workers, getting familiar with the facility itself. But there's something else you need to keep in mind as well, something very important workplace safety. Workplace Safety means thinking safety first, your first day in the job and everyday thereafter. Let's look at some of the hazards you may encounter and what you can do to help yourself and your co-workers avoid them.
Slips, Trips and Falls and Good Housekeeping
A lot of the accidents that occur each day begins with slips, trips and falls. You don't have to work up high or fall a long way to injure yourself. Simply falling to the floor because of a slip or trip can be plenty serious. Slips are cause by a lack of friction between the sole of your shoes and the surface that you're working on. So they often occur on surfaces that are smooth, sleek or wet. The most slippery location in many workplaces is tend to be the smooth floors near entrances, restrooms and machinery. Rain water, grease and oil often make them even slippier, so you need to be especially careful in these areas. But just about anything that gets between the sole of your shoes and a walking surface can cause you to slip. Floor clogged with trash whether have dirt, sawdust, metal shavings, gravel or other loose materials scattered on them can be very hazardous.
The shoes that you wear make a difference too; Casual dress shoes that are practical in an office may not be enough attraction to walk safely on a shaft floor or loading dock. In these situations, footwear with non-slip soles is always a good choice. Trips often occur when your foot catches on an object that unexpectedly appears in your path, so it's easy to see clogged workplace can be a hazardous one, that's why good housekeeping is so important. Many slips, trips and falls can be prevented just by cleaning up and disposing of litter and removing obstacles.
Use absorbent substances like vermiculite or kitty litter to soak up liquid spills, grease and oil then sweep it up and throw it out. Keep aisles, stairs and doorways clear. Watch for floor markings that indicate walkways and keep these areas clear of obstructions as well. Good housekeeping also includes not creating any hazardous conditions yourself.
Stringing power or extension cords across a walkway can create serious trip hazards for people passing by. So always tape these cords down securely. Loose floor boards, torn carpets, protruding nails and small path holes in the floor create their own hazards, cordon these areas off until they can be repaired. Even a burnt light bulb or malfunctioning light fixture need your attention, you can't avoid hazards if you can't see them. But replacing a bulb in an overhead fixture can be hazardous as well. You'll naturally want to use a portable ladder to reach it, but you need to remember that using any ladder incorrectly can lead into a serious fall. So, begin by inspecting the ladder for damage or parts that don't work, if you find problems don't use it take it out of service and get another one.
When setting up a ladder place the ladder securely on a leveled surface. To get the most stable angle for leaning a ladder against the wall, make sure the base of the ladder is about 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet of working ladder height. To climb more securely, always face the ladder keep two hands and a foot or one hand and two feet in contact with the ladder at all times, never rush. Keeping your belt buckle center between the ladder rails can help prevent you from losing your balance and falling sideways. When you're finish don't try to slide down or jump off the ladder that's just asking for trouble.
Every work day you perform a number of different tasks, you might even do each them at different locations or use different materials or tools which means that each task can place a different combination of stresses and strains on your body. Ergonomics is the study of reducing the stresses by adjusting your workplace and work habits to fit your know unique physical make up. This is very important bad ergonomics does more than just make you uncomfortable, overtime the stresses and strains can actually cause serious injury. So you need to recognize the three (3) types of activities that are most likely to cause trouble;
- Performing Repetitive Motions
- Working in Irregular/Extreme Positions
- Lifting Loads That Are Too Heavy or Lifting Improperly
To avoid hazardous repetitions work more variety into your movements by alternating tasks that use different motions. You can also reduce on your joints and muscles by making a few changes in your work area. Adjust chairs to provide firm support for your lower back. Raise or lower work surfaces to take stress of upper body and arrange tools and materials you use so you don't have to stretch or strain to get them. You can avoid one of the most common symptoms of bad ergonomics, an aching back by using safe lifting and carrying techniques. First, examine the object you want to lift, if it's too heavy or hard to handle get a co-worker to help you or use a dolly, hand cart or other equipment. When you can handle the lift by yourself, get close to the object and then slowly at the knees. Don't bend at the waist, get a good grip and lift slowly with your legs, keep your back straight and the load close to your body. To carry safely remember not to twist your back when you're turning, turn gradually with your feet instead. When it's time to set the object down simply reverse the lifting process.
Using Hand and Power Tools and Powered Machinery Safety
Hand and Powered Tools and machinery make it possible for you to work better and easier but, they also cost thousands of serious injuries and hundreds of deaths every year. Fortunately, you can avoid these hazards by following safe work practices. Inspect your tools every time you use them, look for crack or bent pieces, loose or missing parts and rust or corrosion. Always use the correct tools for the job, don't try and cut corners by using a screwdriver as a chisel a wrench as a hammer or knife as a screwdriver. These are good ways to damage the tool, the material you're working on and your hands. Be sure you know how to operate power tools properly, follow the manufacturer's instructions or ask your supervisor if you're not sure. Check that a tools housing is not crack before you plug it in. Verify that switches are not loose or damage, carefully inspect power cords and pressure hoses to make sure that they aren't crack, cut or frayed.
Some tools may not be safe to use in certain work environments because water conducts electricity using electrically powered tools in wet conditions like rain or while standing in water can create a serious shock hazard. And since both metallic hand tools and electrical power tools can produce sparks they could ignite a fire if they're use around flammable or combustible materials. Whatever types of tools you're using be sure you wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Industrial machinery is equipped with guards and other safety devices that reduce your exposure to their hazards, these mechanisms can include;
- Light Curtains
- Trips and Mats
- Restrain and Pull-Back Devices
But none of them will protect you if they've been damage, altered or removed from the equipment. Use a machine only when it's safeguards are in place and in good operating condition and be sure to wear PPE to shield yourself from any sparks or flying materials that might get pass the guards. Keeping your work area clean and free of tool, materials and debris when you're working around machinery is essential for safety as well. Any of these could fall into your machine, hit moving parts and becomes dangerous projectiles. Pay attention to how you dress for work to, loose clothing, long hair and jewelry can slip pass a safety guard and get wrap in moving parts. It takes proper training to operate powered equipment safely, so if you haven't been trained and authorized to use a machine don't. Don't use a machine if you're sick, tired or having trouble concentrating either, your full attention is required to avoid accidents. And maintain a healthy respect for the equipment you work with. A lot of serious accidents happen to experienced workers because they become complaisant, forget their good work habits and try to get away with dangerous shortcuts.
A Forklift can handle large quantities of materials quickly and efficiently. When you're driving one, it's up to you to make sure it gets done safely too. Safe operating procedures start with entering the vehicle properly by using a three (3) point mount; Keep at least two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand in contact with the truck at all times. Before you drive off, adjust your seat belt and buckle up. Once you're moving keep your hands inside the vehicle.
- Maintain A Safe Speed
- Watch Where You're Going
- Look Out for Pedestrians
Drive to the right of an oncoming traffic and pedestrians just you would in a car. Don't tailgate, stay at least 3 truck lengths behind other vehicles. When approaching corners or doorways stop and sound your horn, these what's pedestrians and other equipment operators know that you're coming, look both ways before you pull out. Remember to keep your forks low 4 to 6 inches above the floor, moving with raise forks can damage equipment and injure co-workers. When you're carrying a load, don't make sudden stops that could dump the load right off the forks. If the load blocks your forward vision drive in reverse ask a co-worker to help as a spotter if necessary. Be careful crossing wet and icy surfaces, stopping or turning suddenly could cause you to skid out of control. Remember any load will change a forklift center of gravity the best way to keep a forklift stable while carrying a load is to tilt the mast back and keep the forks low. But if for any reason you're forklift does begin to tip, do not jump out you could be crashed under the machine, instead;
- Brace Your Feet
- Grab the Steering Wheel
- Pull Tight Against It
- Lean in Opposite Direction
- Hang On
Never allow riders on a forklift unless it's specifically designed for transporting passengers and don't fool around the driver seat of a forklift or any other equipment is no place for a joker or show off.
Electrical Safety and Lock-Out/Tag-Out
It takes a lot of power to make a workplace work. But regardless what types of power the equipment and machinery in your facility run on, it's crucial for you to recognize that the energy itself can be dangerous. Energy safety is everyone's responsibility particularly when that energy is electricity, because so many of us use it so often and it can be so dangerous. To work safely around electricity you need to stay alert for hazardous conditions. Inspect all power and extension cords before you plug them in, look for crack insulation and exposed wires. If you find problems, do not use the equipment;
- Report It
- Repair It, or
- Replace It
If you an adapter being use to insert a three prong plug into a two prong outlet without the ground wire being connected that a shock hazard. Same with three prong plugs that have their ground prongs removed so to fit into a two prong outlet. Electrical equipment is never safe unless it has been properly grounded. Plugin too many power cords into a single receptacle creates another hazard, this can overload the circuit cause the wires to overheat and possibly starts a fire. To avoid an overload, power cords should be distributed evenly among receptacles on different circuits. You can use extension cords to help with this, but be sure to choose cords that can handle the amount of electricity that's required and tape them down so they don't trip people. Then talk to your supervisor about finding a permanent way to make a power available where it's needed, because extension cords are only temporary solutions. Never plug in wet cords or touch wet electrical equipment and don't touch electrical equipment with wet hands, these are all serious shock hazards because water conducts electricity. Finally never use a metal ladder near electricity it can act just like a lightning rod, use a fiber glass or wooden ladder instead.
Serious energy related injuries often occur when one person is working on a piece of equipment that has had its power turned off and someone else inadvertently turns the power back on, the result can be a severe injury even death. But a safe work practice known as Lock-Out/Tag-Out can prevent these accidents. Its goal is to ensure that the power can't be restored to equipment while it's being work on. The Lock-Out step, disconnect a machine from its source of energy, actual locks and other devices are installed that physically prevent the energy from being turned back on. In the Tag-Out step, tags are also attached to call attention to the fact that the power is shut off. They explain why the equipment has been de-energized and lists the personnel who are involve with the work. For added safety, only certain employees in your facility will be authorize to install or remove lock-out/tag-out devices. Situations were lock-out/tag-out procedures should be use occur more often than you might think. If you encounter equipment that has been lock-out and tag-out do not attempt to remove the locks or tags and do not try to turn the power back on.
Hazard Communication and Personal Protective Equipment
You may heard of OSHA's hazard communication standard sometimes it's simply called Hazcom but you might not know that it gives you the right to know about any hazardous materials you may be called on to handle as part of your work. It also requires your employer to provide you with a training and equipment that you need to work safely with these substances. Information about potentially hazardous chemicals is delivered to you three (3) ways:
- Safety Data Sheets - explains how to safely handle and store that chemical and what exposure controls and personal protective equipment you should use when you're working with it. The SDS also tells you how to clean up a spill involving the chemical and what first aid procedures to follow in an emergency. You can find this information quickly and easily because the SDS presents facts in order you typically need them in language that's easy to understand.
- Container Labels - are also required to provide with important information about the substances inside them at a glance. They display the material's name and potential health, fire and re-activity hazards as well as what precautions to take, what situations to avoid and what personal protective equipment to wear when you're working with it.
- Hazard Communication Program - you can also find information about hazardous chemicals in your facility's hazard communication program. It tells you;
- What Hazmats Are Present
- Where They Are and How They've Labeled
- Where SDSs Are Kept
- Any Other Information You Need to Know
As we've seen the safe handling of hazardous materials requires the use of proper personal protective equipment. PPE is anything you wear to prevent or minimize injuries and it's not just for use around chemicals, it can help you to protect yourself from many different types of hazards throughout your workplace. For example, where there's danger from overhead hazards you should wear a hard hat it can protect you from falling objects, chemical splashes, molten metal and more.
To protect your eyes from flying particles you should wear safety glasses; Goggles can provide even protection and optical filter lenses can prevent injuries from intense light sources. You can add a face shield for more coverage if you need it. In noisy environments earplugs, earmuffs and canal cuffs can reduce the risks of hearing damage. For hazards in the atmosphere you need to wear respiratory protection. Depending on the level of protection you need this can range from disposable dust masks to full face cartridge respirators or even supplied air systems that provide breathable air from tanks. Gloves can protect your hands from hazard ranging from dirt, splinters, rough surfaces and sharp edges, to heat chemicals potentially infectious body substances and more. Safety shoes can have non-slip soles, steel toes, protective inserts and insulation which can help to prevent slips and resist crashing, punctures and protect against extreme of both heat and cold. Some hard hats, gloves and shoes can also resist electric shock, but no PPE can protect you if you leave it sitting on a shelf. So, be sure to wear yours every day. If you have questions ask your supervisor about the correct PPE to wear for the work you'll be doing.
Fire Prevention and Emergency Procedures
Industrial Fires can spread quickly they can cause serious damage and they can kill, the best way to fight any fire is to prevent it from starting in the first place you can do this by following safe work practices. Since many industrial fires are cause by stray sparks from welding and cutting operations, flammable materials should always be stored away from where this type of work is going on. Fire proof blankets should be place over flammables that can't be moved. Arrange free standing welding screens or curtains around the work area to prevent sparks and hot metal fragments from scattering. Even with these precautions a stray spark or piece of hot metal might still escape. So, it’s often wise to pause a co-worker to keep a fire watch just in case.
As we've seen overloaded electrical circuits can cause fires too. Don't plug too many power cords into any one outlet and make sure extension cords are ready to handle the voltage that's involved. Fires can also start when wood shavings, grease or other flammable materials build up on areas of a machine that get hot. You can prevent this by keeping equipment clean, especially around electrical parts like motors, or areas where frictions create a lot of heat. If you ever seen equipment overheating or noticed frayed or loose wiring, shut off the power and notify your supervisor. Fire prevention continues even in the break room, don't leave toaster ovens and other appliances unattended when you're heating up something to eat. If you smoke light up only in designated areas and never around flammable materials. Be careful where and how you dispose of your cigarette butts too, make sure they are completely out before you toss them and then only into proper containers such as specially designed receptacles or metal pails filled with sand.
If a fire emergency does occur in your facility your safety and maybe even your life will depend on knowing just what to do. Your company will have developed an emergency action plan that contains all the information you need including evacuation roots and procedures. This plan is the key to maintaining emergency readiness at your facility, and it's not just about fires either. It addresses many different types of potential incidents including;
- Hazardous Spills
- Natural Disasters (such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes)
- Civil Unrest
The emergency action plan is made available to everyone in the facility. So, you can use it to prepare yourself to act quickly and safely when an emergency arises. For starters, you should identify at least two escape routes from your work areas. That way if one is blocked you have another way out. Evacuation routes and emergency exits should never be cluttered or obstructed by tools, materials or equipment. If you see something blocking the way, fix it or report it right away.
When an alarm sounds leave the area immediately, remain calm walk don't run. Never use an elevator to leave the building during an emergency use the stairs instead. Feel doors before you open them to make sure they are cool to the touch. Never open a door that's hot, it may have smoke and flames behind it. Close doors after you pass through them, if there's a fire this helps to keep smoke and flames from spreading. Since heat rises you can breathe cleaner cooler air by staying close to the floor. Your facility's emergency action plan will also list the location you should report to once you get outside. This way your company can keep track of who's safe and who may not be. Emergency personnel should be notified immediately if anyone is missing. Do not re-enter the building until you're told that it is safe to do so.
Health Emergencies, First Aid and Bloodborne Pathogens
No safety program is perfect even when we do our best accidents still happen and people can get hurt so you need to be ready to deal with these events when they occur. Often the best course in responding to a health emergency is to call for medical assistance, so make sure you know what numbers to call or where to find them.
In an emergency, every minute counts call for assistance immediately if the victim is;
- There are injuries to the head, neck or back
- There's a visible bone deformity
- The victim cannot move or bear weight on an injured joint or limb
- There's a significant swelling, pain or numbness
- There's an obvious break in a bone or severe muscle strain
If a co-worker suffers a heart attack their various survival may depend on getting them treatment quickly. A heart attack victim may suddenly;
- Have Trouble Breathing
- Tightening in the Chest
- Nausea or Indigestion
Their skin may turn pale or blue and go cold and sweaty. This is another situation where you should call for medical health immediately. Another condition that requires fast action is heat stroke. This is a severe form of heat stress in which the body becomes severely over heated, it can lead to brain damage and even death. A heat stroke victim can have a temperature as high as 105°F but they are unable to sweat normally. Other symptoms can include headache, dizziness, nausea and cramps, they may lose consciousness. If you think one of your co-workers is suffering from heat stroke, call emergency medical services immediately;
- Get Them Out of the Heat
- Raise Their Heat
- Stay Until Help Arrives
To avoid any heat related illness, when you're in a hot environment you should drink from 5 to 7 ounces of an electrolytes sports drink every 15 or 20 minutes, this will help replace the fluids and minerals that your body is sweating out. Loose lightweight clothing made of cotton or cotton glands can help to keep you cool. Avoid dark colors that absorb heat, instead wear light colors that will reflect it. If you're working outside wear a light colored hat to keep the sun off your head, sun glasses and sun screen can help too. Cold conditions can be just hazardous as hot ones. In this situation, you should dress to stay warm;
- Layer Your Clothing
- Protect Yourself with Waterproof Clothing
- Wear a Hat, Gloves and Boots
But keep in mind that working in heavy clothing can tire you out quickly and you can work up just as big as sweat working in a cold as you do when it's hot. Stay safe by replacing loss fluids and minerals with electrolyte drink as you work. You can prepare yourself now for any minor cuts, scrapes and burns by learning where to find a first aid kit when you need it, your supervisor can show you where they are. If you cut or scrape yourself or need to treat a co-worker;
- Apply Direct Pressure
- Clean the Wound
- Apply Sterile Bandage
In case of a burn;
- Soak Area or Apply Ice
- Don't Clean the Skin or Break Blisters
- Cover with Sterile Dressing
- Never Apply Ointments or Salves
In any incident bleeding can be a serious concern, if you come into contact with someone else's blood any disease causing microorganisms in that blood could infect you too. Some of these organisms called Bloodborne Pathogens can give rise to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and a Human Immunodeficiency Virus "HIV". So you must do what you can to prevent getting other people's blood on your skin or mucus membranes or in your eyes, even during an emergency situation. If possible before assisting an injured co-worker equipped yourself with a pair of latex gloves from a first aid kit or any clean work gloves you can find. Afterward wash your hands or any part of your body that may have come into contact with blood thoroughly. Then be sure to report to exposure to your supervisor. Remember first aid is always and only the first step, you take the next one by getting a help from a medical professional.
There's obviously a lot to think about when it comes to keeping you and your co-workers safe. Let's review;
- The best way to deal with accidents ifs to prevent them
- Don't become complacent
- Follow safe work practices
- Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Stay alert for hazards
- Prepare for emergencies
- Be aware of health problems
Workplace safety is a team effort. We all can be team players by staying safety minded on the job. Working together we can keep accidents and injuries to a minimum and ensure that everyone gets to go home safe at the end of the day.