Almost all workplace injuries are avoidable if you know how to identify and correct common problems. The Flanders Group is experienced in New York Workers’ Compensation insurance and we have identified the three most common workplace hazards: physical, behavioral, and ergonomic.
Physical Hazards: Physical hazards are the most common form of workplace injury. They are typically easy to spot, but often overlooked because of familiarity (there are “always” cords running across the aisles), lack of knowledge (they aren’t seen as hazards), resistance to spending time or money to make necessary improvements, or simply delays in making changes to remove the hazards (waiting until a time when “we’re not so busy”).
Examples of physical hazards include:
• Electrical hazards such as frayed cords, missing ground pins, and improper wiring.
• Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts.
• Constant loud noise.
• High exposure to sunlight, heat or cold.
• Working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, or any raised work area.
• Working with mobile equipment such as fork lifts.
• Spills on floors.
• Tripping hazards, such as blocked aisles or cords running across the floor.
Behavioral hazards: Behavioral hazards include individual employee attitudes and the organizations culture and safety philosophy. In most cases, an employee sees a potential, personal gain in unsafe behavior. For example, they may be taking a short cut in order to receive more pay, recognition, or simply to finish work early. Supervisors often recognize these behaviors long before an accident occurs.
Ergonomic hazards: Ergonomic hazards occur when the type of work, body position and working conditions put strain on a worker’s body. They are the hardest to spot because workers and supervisors don’t immediately notice the harm these hazards pose. Short-term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following exposure, but long term exposure can result in more serious injuries.
Ergonomic hazards include:
• Poor lighting.
• Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs.
• Frequent improper lifting.
• Poor posture.
• Awkward or repetitive movements.
Luckily, improving on these hazard types, or completely eliminating them, are easily done. Physical hazards are easy to fix by implementing appropriate training programs for both stationary and moving equipment, and for other workplace procedures. It is also important to be ready for repairs by having all the necessary equipment and parts on hand. Providing personal protective equipment such as goggles, gloves, and vests are also important in preventing injury. The final best practice for preventing physical hazards is good housekeeping.
Behavioral hazards are best prevented by a policy and accountability solution. Clarify to workers their job positions and communicate to them the importance of their safety. Positively reinforce safe behaviors and enforce negative consequences for infractions. Eliminate the employee’s motivation for “short cuts” through a progressive discipline policy. Again, communication is key in preventing behavioral hazards. Make sure your employees understand that their safety is in everyone’s best interest.
Ergonomic hazards, while the most difficult to identify, are easy to fix. Improve workstations and implement procedural, workstation, or equipment changes. For example train on proper lifting techniques and encourage employees to take frequent breaks to stretch their repetitively moving muscles.
By removing these three common hazards from your New York business you can help reduce your Workers’ Compensation premium as well as promote a safe and healthy workplace. If you have any questions about these hazards and how to implement change within your company, contact The Flanders Group today.