The 5 Most Common Workplace Hazards We Saw in 2014

2014 workplace hazardsRegardless of the type of business you have, there are likely some areas of your workplace that present a potential hazard to your employees. Looking back at the workers’ comp injury stats for 2014 brought to light the most common hazardous situations our Safety Team saw during visits to our clients.

Here are the five most common workplace hazards we saw in 2014:

1. Slip, trip and fall hazards

Slip-and-fall injuries can occur in any workplace.  That “slick spot” near the door that becomes wet with tracked-in rain or snow is common.  Placing non-slip mats in front of the doorway and inside the entry should keep employees from taking a costly tumble in inclement weather.  The mats themselves can cause trip hazards if they contain frayed edges or fail to lay perfectly flat. Replace worn or “curled” mats as soon as they get that way.

Constricted aisles and hallways are another source of slips or trips.  OSHA regulations state that hallways and marked aisles must remain free of any obstruction that could impede employees as they pass down the hallway.  Entrances to offices or other rooms off the hallway must be free from any obstruction for a minimum distance of 36” in all directions to meet the OSHA requirement.

Finally, improper use of extension cords and computer cables can also be a source of a trip and fall injury.  If you must run an extension cord across a passageway, make sure it is covered with a molding strip that is firmly anchored to the floor.  Better still, route the cord overhead to keep it from becoming a trip hazard.  Computer cables should be coiled and tied with wire ties to the shortest length possible.

2. Falls from heights (ladders)

Improper use of portable ladders is a huge hazard.  Attempting to ascend or descend a portable ladder while holding something in your hands is an invitation to a fall. Remember the “three points of contact” rule – either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand must be in contact with the ladder at all times.

Inspect all your ladders frequently to ensure that there are no bent or broken pieces.  How frequently?  OSHA regulations require the ladder be inspected before EACH USE.  At least monthly, a serious examination should be done of all ladders in your workplace. Any ladder found to have a defect must be removed from service immediately and either repaired or replaced to original factory specifications.

Never use ANYTHING but a safe ladder to reach a height.  Chairs, boxes, tables, etc. are NOT appropriate replacements for a sturdy ladder.  Anything but a ladder can quickly become unstable and cause a fall.

When working from a ladder, make sure that you never reach beyond the rails!  All work from ladders should be performed directly in front of the ladder with the workers hands and arms inside the rails.

3. Material handling

One of the MOST HAZARDOUS jobs in any office is moving filled file boxes.  When full, these boxes can easily weigh in excess of fifty pounds.  They are also bulky and hard to hold when walking.  Use a dolly or lift table to move file boxes to the storage area.  Use two people to lift the boxes from the dolly and place them on the shelf.

Other material handling tasks also present hazards to employees.  If your job involves lifting and moving heavy, bulky, long, or slippery objects – plan the move and use more than one person if necessary.  Ask for assistance rather than risking a back injury by trying to overdo.

4. Lacerations

Cuts and scrapes can easily be prevented by wearing appropriate gloves.  One type of glove is NOT sufficient for all tasks in the workplace.  Your employees might need specialized hand protection depending upon the assigned task.  If you issue gloves to your employees, ensure that they wear them when working!  Failure to do so is not only a violation of safety rules, but also an invitation to a cut or scrape.

5. Driving on the job

By far the MOST SERIOUS workplace hazard occurs anytime an employee gets behind the wheel.  Whether in a company truck or their personal vehicle, employees are exposed to the potential of injury from collision with other vehicles on the roadway or stationary objects like poles and signs.

Train your employees to drive defensively!  ERM offers National Safety Council Defensive Driver Training at a nominal cost.  The class is four hours long and a certificate of completion should garner the employee a discount on his personal auto liability insurance.  Training all your drivers should get you a discount on your business auto insurance also.

Develop and implement a cell phone policy for drivers.  Distracted driving has been shown to attribute to around 40 percent of all vehicle accidents.  Some states have laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving.  Others restrict use of cell phones unless equipped with a hands-free device.  Again, if you have a policy – enforce it!  Violations of company cell phone policy should be treated just like any other safety rule violation.  Hold your drivers accountable for their actions when they are on the road for work.

Avoid These Common Workplace Hazards in 2015

If you’d like advice on how your business can start taking the necessary steps to prevent these common workplace hazards contact us today and subscribe to our blog.

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