Mitigating workplace hazards

 

As a result of a wide variety of job specifications, it is not always easy to narrow down the hazards faced by those working in the mechanical industry.  Distinguishing between hazards in office environments and on job sites is one way of classifying risks.

Hazards in office environments may not be obvious at first, but they include illnesses and injuries such as repetitive strain problems and general ill health. Hazards on job sites can vary greatly not only between sites but also from one day to the next as work progresses on a specific project.

Common hazards include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Exposure to dangerous substances
  • Dust, noise, and fumes
  • Injuries caused by mishandling of equipment

How can employers minimize those hazards and mitigate the risks emanating from them?

 

Creating a safety culture

Creating a safety culture in workplaces means putting safety considerations at the heart of everything the company does. Safety culture is an accumulation of attitudes, values, and perceptions that influence how something is done in a company as opposed to how it should be done.

In practice, this starts with understanding whether the company is subject to regulation by The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and provincial authorities. Based on those regulations, your health and safety team can then develop policies and procedures and ensure they are implemented as a matter of course.

CCOHS’s rules aim to reduce the risk of workplace injuries, incidents, and even fatalities. To create a truly safety-focused company culture, the entire team needs to understand the organization’s commitment to safety and its determination to keep employees and others safe. In short, a safety culture requires more than paying lip service to safety.

 

Risk assessments and identifying hazards

Initiating and maintaining a safety culture across a business would not be possible without assessing individual risks and identifying hazards. While CCOHS and other regulators provide a framework, individual companies need to look at risk in more detail.

Depending on how many projects the business is handling and how much they vary in nature, the outcomes of risk assessments and the hazards they identify can vary widely. Applying the same workplace safety measures to all projects rarely works. This blanket approach may look promising initially, but as soon as there is an incident, flaws will become apparent. Thorough risk assessments lead to more clearly identified hazards specific to individual work sites. Once this level of detail has been established, it becomes easier to develop controls and other safety measures.

The results of your company’s risk assessment and hazard identification process will determine which controls and safety measures the business needs. Here are two examples of how to handle common hazards.

 

1. Controlling noise and protecting hearing

Loud noises may not only disturb concentration and focus, but they can seriously damage a person’s hearing. Over time, excessive noise exposure could lead to hearing loss. Humans perceive noise in terms of loudness or decibels and in terms of frequency. If a sound produces a higher number of decibels, we perceive it to be louder than another sound. High frequencies tend to predispose people to hearing loss more than lower frequencies. If your business has identified noise as one of the key hazards, choosing effective ear protection needs to be part of your mitigation strategy.

2. Limiting exposure to dangerous chemicals

Employees may also become exposed to hazardous chemicals on worksites and they may not be familiar with the risks of certain chemicals, making it even more important to put in place solid safety measures. Those safety measures could include access to appropriate personal protective equipment such as protective goggles, gloves, and clothing. In addition, work sites must be equipped with warning signs, and employees need to be given a thorough introduction to chemicals they may become exposed to.

 

Ongoing training and professional development

Ensuring effective workplace safety requires ongoing effort by the employer and the team members themselves. Offering regular safety training, including refresher sessions, helps keep safety at the top of employee’s minds. This type of ongoing professional development also ensures that safety-related motor skills stay fresh and readily applicable.

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