Maximize Efficiency by Minimizing Workplace Injuries

From unexpected falls to machinery mishaps, accidents at work are unpredictable and can happen to anyone. In 2016, approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers. Putting in the extra effort to guarantee your work environment is safe shows employees you care about their well-being and may help improve workforce morale and productivity.

By taking action and following these precautionary steps, you can prevent common workplace injuries and protect your employees.

Falls have the unfortunate (but unsurprising) distinction of being the most common type of work injury. In one swift movement, you can hurt your body and your dignity. Slips, trips, and falls often can be avoided by keeping work spaces free of clutter; less to trip over means fewer injuries.

Keep walkways clear, boxes and files organized and properly stored, and electrical cords secured and covered. Use drip pans and guards when dealing with a liquid, and clean any spill immediately. Placing rugs and other skid-resistant surfaces in areas that might become slippery when wet can reduce falls. Pro tip: Add extra rugs in entryways to prevent slippery floors during rainy and snowy seasons.

Employees should refrain from standing on chairs, especially those with wheels. If you need assistance with something out of reach, use a step ladder that is placed on firm, level ground, or connect with the on-site specialist or maintenance team. The National Safety Council also suggests keeping vision lines clear by installing convex mirrors to improve sight lines when turning corners.

Struck or Caught By Objects
Being struck by or caught on an object is another common concern. Stack boxes straight up and down, but avoid piling them to the point where they become unstable. Remember to store heavy objects close to the floor to help lower the risk of being injured if a cabinet or bookshelf falls over. Beware of fully-extended file cabinet drawers because the cabinets are prone to toppling over.

Equipment Usage
Misusing equipment is one of the most prevalent causes of workplace injuries. Each staff member should be thoroughly trained on how to use equipment common to daily tasks and operations. Additionally, ensure each piece of equipment is used for its intended purpose and handled correctly. Regularly cleaning and inspecting equipment also can help certify that it's safe to use. If needed, confirm employees are wearing protective clothing such as safety glasses, helmets, or gloves when operating equipment to provide extra protection, and follow OSHA compliance.

Fire Safety
Fire hazards remain an ongoing concern. Start taking safety precautions by making sure all electrical cords are in good condition, because damaged cords can be a serious problem. Limit the use of space heaters and never leave one unattended. If you do need to use a space heater, keep it away from paper products and confirm it has a fail-safe for turning off if it tips over. Keep fire escape routes clear, and never block or shut off fire sprinklers. Verify all staffers are aware of the company's fire exit strategy by holding annual fire drills. Annually review fire alarms and extinguishers to be sure they are working and up to date.

If using combustible materials in the work environment, keep only the amount needed on hand and store materials in fire-safe containers in an assigned storage area. Using industrial vacuums to frequently clean work spaces also helps prevent dust accumulation and fires.

Substance Control
Opioid addiction is affecting people from all walks of life, including your employees. Employees under the influence are more likely to be involved in an on-the-job accident because of impaired judgement, response time, and reflexes. Is your workplace current with drug testing policies? Expand existing policies to include commonly prescribed medications (opioids), as well as illicit drugs and alcohol. Implementing this type of testing establishes the use of drugs and can allow the employer to help the employee seek help for drug addiction.

Employers can start the conversation by educating their workforce about what's expected from the drug testing program and what resources they can access through the company Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP helps facilitate support by connecting employees with ongoing resources to stay clean and find healthier stress solutions outside of drug use. Drug testing is the first step in recognizing a problem and will keep and support a safe workplace.

Take Breaks
Many work-related injuries occur when a worker is tired and isn't paying close attention to surrounding dangers. Whether you're sitting at a computer all day or doing manual labor, it's important to take breaks to rest your mind and your body.

While workplace injuries can never fully be avoided, they can be decreased. Administrative staff play a key role when identifying and eliminating potentially harmful conditions. When conducting workplace walk-throughs, take this list of safety tips and see how many can be applied to your current work environment. Talk to employees about their needs and concerns, educate them on safety procedures, and establish a reporting system for potential hazards so that issues can be addressed before they cause a future workplace injury.

Katie Moser is the network operations specialist for FEI Behavioral Health. She provides critical incident support for corporate customers and activations, and also supports the crisis management department with deployment and scheduling of crisis responders during drills and activations. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology.

FEI has a 35-year history in enhancing workforce resiliency by offering a full spectrum of solutions, from EAP and organizational development to workplace violence prevention and crisis management. One of the most successful social enterprises in America, FEI is wholly owned by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a national network of social sector organizations working to achieve its vision of a healthy and equitable society. Learn more at

Posted on Mar 16, 2018

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