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Don’t Fall, Ensure Your Workplace is Safe

A small business owner wears many hats; from a customer service representative to an accountant, marketing guru to HR, you’re expected to be the expert on how your business operates. While you are busy making sure your business runs smoothly, some safety measures may get overlooked. No matter what industry you work in, safety is a priority.

Every workplace has some safety risks, from slippery floors to dim storage areas or heavy, dangerous equipment. Employees and customers may be operating in the same space, making it essential for a business owner to mitigate risk for all parties involved. Small businesses in every industry can minimize their risk by assessing their hazards, implementing employee training, and making risk reporting accessible and easy to track.

Falling Risk in the Workplace
Accidents can happen in any workplace. Depending on the line of work you are in, these accidents can range from minor to catastrophic. One common accident is slipping or falling from elevated areas, into holes, or on surfaces that may not provide adequate traction. Many of the solutions that can help you manage falling risk in your workplace do not require much investment. These solutions can be as simple as putting up a sign or as in-depth as renovating.

The US Department of Labor cites falls, trips, and spills as the most significant source of reported workplace accidents. Falling, tripping, or slipping hazards are dangerous not only for employees but for customers who may be moving through your space as well. Minimizing the risk of falls, trips, or slips can be obtained through industry standards, best workplace practices, training, and other measures.

The spaces you have control over as a business owner are your responsibility to maintain. This could include parking lots, alleyways, sidewalks, and the physical building that your business occupies. Parking lots and walking areas should be kept clear of hazards like snow, ice, debris, and walkways should be cleared regularly to prevent incidents.

Proper lighting in these areas creates a safe environment for employees and customers, and non-slip paint or tape can help mark crossing areas.

Assessing Workplace Risks
An excellent place to start making your workplace a safer space is assessing potential hazards throughout your environment. Even those in the same industry will be different and therefore have unique risk factors. These risk factors can be influenced by where you work, the building you are in, the equipment you use, and if you have employees and/or third parties in your space.

Some risk factors that can increase chances of falling, slipping, or tripping include:

  • Uneven flooring
  • Transitions between different floor types
  • Broken or missing flooring
  • A lack of handrails on stairs or guardrails on elevated surfaces
  • Uneven curbs or steps

As much as possible, these problems should be addressed. However, some issues are more challenging to fix than others. In these cases, marking tripping or slipping hazards is critical. These areas could include steps up or down into another room, a metal grate set into flooring, or a transition between surfaces. Posting signs, highlighting the area with non-slip tape or brightly colored paint, and otherwise visually marking the hazard can go a long way in keeping your workplace safe.

Some workplaces can feature elevated walkways, which should have toe-guards and guardrails to prevent falls from elevation. Additionally, OSHA requirements also include toe guards and rails around elevated platforms and holes in the ground where work may be occurring. Safety procedures and equipment like harnesses are required in different workplace settings depending on the circumstances.

Create a Safe Working Environment
How your workspace is laid out can help prevent accidents. Good lighting, especially in high traffic areas, can allow people to move around potential obstacles. If they can see a hazard, it can be avoided. Good lighting can be achieved by ensuring that all existing lighting sources are working, bulbs are replaced when needed, and lights are placed in areas identified as potentially risky.

Walkways should be kept clear of clutter to minimize tripping hazards. Clutter from projects is anticipated, but areas should be cleared routinely to decrease risks. Cords from power tools, computers, or other wired equipment should be taped down or organized to prevent tangling or tripping. Cables should not be strung across walkways.

If you work in an environment that receives inventory, boxes should be broken down and stored or recycled during the intake process. Excess clutter in boxes and other shipping debris can clog walkways and create a falling or tripping hazard if not organized promptly.

Training Employees
The training of employees in workplace safety skills is integral for workplace safety. Whether you are a one-person crew or oversee dozens of employees, proper training is the best prevention against accidents. Employees are often the first to observe a potential hazard and can be the first to respond to it.

Employees should be trained to manage routine problems, like spills and more extensive emergencies. Depending on your industry, additional safety training regarding chemical spills and other emergencies may be necessary. These procedures, such as sweeping or putting out wet floor signs, should be routine and conducted regularly, such as daily. Working preventative safety measures into an employee’s daily or weekly routine makes these practices into a habit and helps cement good workplace behaviors into the entire team.

Employee training can include cleaning up spills as soon as possible and displaying proper signage to warn of wet floors or hazard areas. Additional safety training may be needed to operate equipment or machinery and otherwise meet the safety standards of the industry you work in. All employees should be given the same training, and training should be conducted regularly and when information on safety procedures changes.

Implementing Safety Policies and Procedures
If your company is large enough to have a Human Resources position or department, this is a good method of training new and existing staff in safety protocols. An HR department or staff member can organize training, maintain safety protocols, and update these plans as needed. Safety training and requirements should be easily accessible, and the hazard reporting process should be simple for employees to use.

Small businesses are unique in the sense that employees and employers often have a close relationship. Employees are more likely to take workplace safety seriously if they see their employer pitching to implement safety procedures and follow those procedures themselves.

Falls can occur under wet or dry conditions on a variety of surfaces. Employees and employers should remain aware of their surroundings and pay close attention to possible hazards. For instance, floors can become slippery when it is raining or snowy outside, but you may be at risk of a fall if you are rushing around a corner or texting on your phone at the same time. How we behave in the workplace can often be just as much of a safety issue as our environment.

OSHA Regulations
OSHA standards vary depending on the industry you work in. Safety standards for the general industry will differ from the standards set for construction, shipyards, or longshore operations. Small businesses can take advantage of OSHA’s voluntary compliance programs to assess a workplace’s risk factors and move towards OSHA compliance. These programs are not designed to punish workplaces with OSHA violations but to bring small businesses in line with OSHA regulations. Small businesses often operate with limited budgets but are still required to maintain a set of safety standards.

Employees should be aware of available safety training and the OSHA standards for their workplaces, in addition to the methods they can use for reporting safety problems.

Workplace Safety Measures
Creating a safety plan to minimize workplace hazards may seem like a hassle, especially for a small business with limited staff. A safe work environment can promote greater wellbeing among employees and draw customers in.

Creating policies, procedures and setting aside some budget for safety measures can make a big difference in employee wellbeing and the experience your customers have when they walk through the door.

There are many opportunities and resources for small businesses seeking to conduct their workplaces’ safety assessments and implement policies.

For more information about small companies and falling risk, contact the experts at NASE. Our licensed professionals will be happy to answer any questions you have.

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Courtesy of NASE.org
https://www.nase.org/about-us/media-relations/News/nase-in-the-news/2021/09/24/don-t-fall-ensure-your-workplace-is-safe