Accidents happen! You only need to type the word ‘accidents’ in YouTube to spend the next few hours alternating between a chuckle and a cringe as you watch the many videos highlighting the average person’s mishaps. Every possible environment is covered – home, public places, out on the street, and of course (as is relevant to this article) the workplace.
While the saying “accidents happen” does exist – accepting that statement as ‘fate’ should not! We can still be proactive and do our best to minimize the potential for accidents by continuously improving our processes for safety in all environments. Some people might read this and think ‘That’s ridiculous! One can’t spend their life writing and implementing in depth risk management protocols in their home life!’ And we’re not suggesting that you do…
But are you aware that you actually do use safety and risk management strategies on a daily basis? Examples are the pool fence, knowing First Aid, positioning the handle of a pot full of boiling water so it isn’t within reach of a child’s outstretched hand, wearing enclosed shoes while mowing the lawn, not sticking a knife in a toaster while it is plugged in, testing the hot shower water with your hand before you step fully under it, looking up and down the street before you step off the pavement, negotiating if you will make it across the road before that approaching car becomes a threat, and even washing your hands after dragging your bin out onto the curb.
Many of these ‘protocols’ have become second nature – and the same applies to the workplace. They are actions we do over and over again – and considering the amount of hours we spend in our work environment, a lot of us have become unconsciously competent at them. We place the coffee away from our computer’s keyboard, don the hard hat before walking onto the construction site, making sure the legs are locked on the collapsible table before up-righting it, taping or hanging the electrical leads appropriately so no one trips over them, locking the shop door when closing up for the night, moving the knife away from the body when cutting into boxes… and the list goes on.
Unconscious competence is a great thing… but there is a downside to it as well… as we automatically perform our tasks we can sometimes fail to proactively improve the protocol, ie. find better ways to make our work environment and task performance safer.
If you are a business owner, it is your responsibility to look out for the welfare of your employees by providing and maintaining a safe work setting for them. If you aren’t a business owner, you still have a duty to look after yourself, your work colleagues, and people who you come in contact with – and ‘housekeeping’ can play a major role in this.
‘Housekeeping’ in the workplace has a huge impact on a business as a whole. It can help prevent accidents and encourage productivity and efficiency among workers. It can also help make a good and lasting impression on visitors and potential employees. If you want to hire the best people, you need to make sure that you present them with a place where they can feel safe and secure. Obviously too, a proactively safe work environment can also help avoid penalties for non-compliance.
Here are a few pointers to consider for improving safety in your workplace:
1. Prevent slips and trips
Slips and trips are among the most common occupational injuries. These include muscle injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures, bone dislocations, and major accidents like head injury caused by tripping. Such injuries commonly occur when a person walks on slippery floor surfaces that are highly polished, greasy or where a spill has occurred.
In order to prevent these types of injuries, one should choose a floor treatment that is suitable for a work setting. Floorings like cement, concrete, vinyl tiles and sheets, and carpets are some of the best choices for preventing slips and trips. It is also important to replace damaged flooring as soon as possible.
Clean floors after spills and leaks, and consider high pressure cleaning to remove all slippery or moldy remnants on a regular basis. JMac offers high pressure cleaning if you require this service (hint! hint!).
Another way to avoid trips is to provide enough power sockets to minimise cords on the floor (or hang them). It is also important to have bins emptied on a regular basis to avoid trash overflow – another tripping hazard.
2. Eliminate dust
Dust is almost invisible to the naked eye – unless there’s already a dust accumulation so thick you start wondering if someone came in and re-painted everything grey! The standard on preventing health hazards relating to dust inhalation recommend regular vacuuming, sweeping, and water wash-downs. For areas that are inaccessible, the use of compressed air or steam is highly recommended.
3. Avoid unnecessary clutter
Cluttered and disorganized workplaces can contribute to potential injuries to workers as it reduces the area for movement, ability to avoid a sudden hazard, and can restrict access to emergency equipment and exits. Always keep stairways, aisles, emergency exits, and electrical panels free from clutter. Encourage your employees to tidy up their work area and empty the bins before they leave work (or have dedicated personnel/contractors do this).
4. Proper storage
Storage areas must be kept clean and items packed/stacked securely and safely to avoid falling items. Only use stacking units that are of good quality and designed for that purpose. A chair is not a filing cabinet and a plastic bag hanging from the back of a door is not an appropriate storage unit for bottles of paint (besides which the paints should be stored in their correct tins!). Store heavy objects on lower shelves and take care that parts or stored materials do not project out into the path of ‘oncoming foot traffic’, ie. you don’t want someone moving through the storage area getting their sleeve caught on protruding equipment, or tripping over the edge of something that wasn’t stored correctly.
Create designated areas so that equipment and materials can be neatly stored when not in use.
Let us know if you need help with keeping areas cleaned to increase the safety in your workplace – we can pressure clean floors, walls, doors, equipment, bins, driveways, walkways, stairwells, parking lots… just give us a call – and we’ll do our best to help you!