Written by Jay Acker
Injuries that occur at work can be detrimental to a company’s bottom line. The problem is not just in the cost of litigation and increased insurance premiums from workers’ compensation claims, but also in the loss of motivation and productivity that can occur across an office when employees perceive neglect in their employer.
It’s far better to be proactive and avoid workplace injuries before they occur. Whether your company is solely office-based or utilizes a warehouse and a fleet of vehicles, there are universal accidents that can affect any type of business. To stop and prevent injuries before they have a chance to harm employees and derail a company, make yourself of aware of the most common workplace hazards and how to remedy them.
Repetitive Motion Disorders
Although tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and bursitis (swollen elbow) are not the most dramatic of workplace injuries, they are among those with the most long-term impact. Because these disorders develop over long periods of time, they’re also more difficult to reverse the effects of. And because of the growing number of sedentary office workers, they’re becoming more and more common. Use company alerts, emails and posters to remind employees to stretch and take breaks throughout the day. Ergonomic desks and chairs to support the lower back are integral, and you may even consider letting employees switch to stand-up desks if they express interest.
Slips and Falls
Although the possibility of a fall on scaffolding or construction sites is obvious, few office managers realize the real danger of stretching power cords and cables across an office. Make a rule against extending cables through areas that receive walking traffic. Likewise, ensure that stairwells and hallways are well-lit. And if an area of your workplace is ever mopped (even the bathroom), don’t forget the prudent legal benefit of a ‘wet floor’ sign.
Even if you trust a particular employee, think twice before handing them the keys to your personal or company vehicle to run a quick errand for you. Any worker that drives on company business should undergo a driving record background check. Furthermore, implement a company rule against sending text messages or talking on cell phones while driving, even if your state allows it.
In jobs where heavy objects are often moved, workers are generally prepared, including utilizing back-supporting belts and building strength through the consistency of their work. Within office environments, however, it’s common for employees to overestimate their ability. If a refrigerator needs to be moved in the break room or the copy machine needs to go out for repairs, leave these tasks to hired professionals. Even moving reams of copy paper could lead to an injury that could come back to haunt the business. Let employees know that they’re not expected to do any heavy lifting at their job and urge them to err on the side of caution when those tasks arise.
Because new warehouse and machinery workers often come from a similar workplace, it’s tempting to toss them the keys to the forklift and let them get started immediately. Avoid this — any employee utilizing industrial machinery needs to undergo company-specific formal training before being allowed to work. Furthermore, establish rules about long hair, jewelry, and loose fitting clothing to avoid injury around moving parts.
In any workplace, tempers can flare. The key to avoiding workplace violence is early intervention. It’s rare that a disagreement will come to blows without weeks of tension stewing before a critical moment. Make it clear to employees that they won’t be looked down on for speaking out about an issue. Have an objective mediator and plan in place to handle disputes as they arise, settling small differences before they boil over into damaging and dangerous altercations.
Whatever type of business you’re in, the potential for workplace injuries is there. By preparing yourself and instilling an emphasis on safety and well-being amongst your employees, your company will be better suited to handle small injuries that arise, avoiding most of them before anyone ever has a chance to get hurt.
Jay Acker leads a production team at www.safetyservicescompany.com that creates safety training materials. SSC offers contractor-prequalification and other contractor verification servicers.