By Tom Reddon
Safety should always be a top priority in any workplace, regardless if you work in an office setting or in a warehouse. However, as evident by countless statistics over the years, workplace accidents are simply waiting to happen. Despite rigorous safety standards, accidents will happen in any workplace. Yet, there is a multitude of ways to cut down on the number of accidents. To improve your workplace’s safety culture, here are the five biggest obstacles to look out for:
1. Lack of safety training
A lack of safety training increases the likelihood of accidents. Safety training is not an option, it is a priority. Often new safety ideologies and methodologies emerge and outdated safety practices are often proven to be obsolete or ineffective. It is essential to keep all employees abreast and aware of safety, so much that is engrained in the culture of the workplace. A lack of safety training is the greatest obstacle to workplace safety.
2. Workplace distractions
It is critical that any forklift operator or any employee maintain superior situational awareness. In an era of high-paced environments with distracting technologies, it is easy for any worker to lose awareness. It is essential for any operator or labourer to pay attention to their surroundings at all times. A common cause of workplace accidents is negligence to various hazards. Distractions can easily impede any operation. For this reason, it is essential that both as a forklift operator and as a general labourer that employees be free of any electronic devices and assure their attention is on the task at hand at all times. This is especially true when handling hazardous materials, dangerous substances or heavy goods that can potentially injure or kill any worker.
3. Improper handling of hazardous materials
In many instances both forklift operators and general labourers fail to read material data sheets and appropriately handle hazardous or unsafe materials. This practice can fully pose to be a dangerous obstacle with deadly consequences. Before handling any substance, it is paramount to don the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and further be dressed appropriately to work with potentially volatile substances. Learning HAZMAT placard codes can also serve as a great tool to any individual attempting to decipher what class of materials they are handling. Improper handling of these varied materials can result in a spill or contamination of the facility, the results of which can be quite grim. Proper handling of unsafe materials and adherence to all safety protocols will reduce the likelihood of a serious incident within the workplace. Nevertheless one of the biggest obstacles of workplace safety is ignorance of this very concept.
4. Fatigued and dehydrated personnel
This obstacle is unique and far varying from the other three, yet it is a direct physical threat to all employees. The greatest obstacle most workers have are themselves and this is even more true with a tired and dehydrated worker. Simply put, workers will not perform at their best unless their body is treated at its best. A tired or dehydrated forklift operator or general labourer is far more likely to improperly handle material and less likely to be aware of their surroundings.
Furthermore, dehydrated workers are at a higher risk for heat stroke or to develop cardiac conditions. The severity of these conditions can be deadly. In addition, fatigued personnel place all other workers at risk. It is essential that management drive frequency of breaks and assure all subordinates are hydrated and ready to perform. It is imperative to take frequent breaks and drink 12 gallons of water on those long, hot summer days. In addition, it is essential for employees to attempt to sleep eight hours per night to assure adequate energy for the next work day. In gruelling conditions that often accompany many material handling applications, this is absolutely imperative.
5. Lack of emergency preparedness
In the event of an emergency, a comprehensive plan can assure all employees and workers are protected from potentially deadly consequences. Sadly, many employees are unsure if such a plan exists. In many occasions, management ignores this precept and thus preparedness standards are terribly low.
In the event of an accident, the implementation of recovery policies and procedures can serve as a framework to handle the most complex of scenarios. From these action plans, a course of action and a chain of command are implemented. It is essential that all employees know what to do in a variety of emergency situations. Failing to establish this foundation is a great obstacle for any workplace and can cause significant collateral damage in the result of an actual emergency.
Tom Reddon is a forklift specialist and blog manager for the National Forklift Exchange
. He also sits on the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) Executive Dialogue team. Follow him on Twitter at @TomReddon